Technology in the hospital room is great, but don’t get so wrapped up in it that you ignore the person in the bed, cautions Yomi Ajao, vice president of consulting for COPE Health Solutions.

Today’s essential equipment, such as laptops or cellphones, can be a roadblock to building rapport with patients if they are not implemented correctly, adds Cheri Bankston, RN, MSN, senior director of clinical advisory services for naviHealth, a Cardinal Health company.

If you face the computer and not the patients, it appears that you are talking to the computer, and not the patient, she points out.

Technology will never replace the value of human touch, Bankston says. “Having conversations with patients and building rapport is essential, and you can’t use technology to do that,” she says.

When case managers concentrate on their laptops or tablets, it’s almost impossible to engage patients and create a good relationship. This can affect patient satisfaction as well as patients’ adherence to their discharge plan, Ajao says.

“A primary measure of patient satisfaction is engagement. Care managers must engage the patient in a way that they will buy into their discharge plan. If patients are not engaged, care managers are not meeting their goals,” he adds.

When patients are transitioning to another level of care, they should feel connected to the hospital-based case manager or social worker, Ajao says. “The connection is absolutely essential to the patient’s recovery after discharge. Technology is no substitute for personal interaction. If case managers spend too much time using technology rather than talking with the patient, they may not have that connection,” he adds.

Bankston advises case managers to make eye contact with patients and family members, if they are present, as soon as they enter the patient’s room. Focus on the patient and not the computer, she adds.

Go to the bedside to talk to the patient and conduct your assessment, and leave the computer in another part of the room. When it’s time to document, excuse yourself and tell the patient you need to write things down so the rest of the team will know what you discussed.

“This will make a world of difference to the patients because they understand what you’re doing,” she says.

The array of software tools for case managers is increasing and getting better — but it’s a mistake to totally rely on software, Ajao says.

“Technology can end up driving the bus if case managers aren’t careful. It needs to be one tool in the overall decision-making process,” Bankston says.

Case managers can use technology to support their decisions, but they also should rely on their experience and clinical knowledge, she says.

“Even though we have more and more tools and software, we cannot totally rely on software. We have access to predictive analytic tools, but we should keep in mind that the output the software is giving us is based on logic, and we still need to interject the human factor to get the whole picture,” Ajao says.

Always keep in mind that technology is just a tool, Bankston says.

“The bottom line is that case managers need to use their clinical judgment and insight about the patient’s condition as well as technology to create a successful discharge plan,” she says.

One worry is that if clinicians start to rely solely on technology and there is a glitch in the system, patients may be harmed, adds John Banja, PhD, professor in the department of rehabilitation medicine and medical ethics at Emory University’s Center for Ethics in Atlanta.

Clinicians should be aware that artificial intelligence programs may make recommendations that their clinical knowledge tells them are erroneous, he says.

“The universal problem with any new technology is that you cannot anticipate the consequences. No complex system runs the way it’s planned,” Banja says.