Dr. Peggy Wagner, research director for the Department of Family Medicine the MCG's School of Medicine, has revealed that the system is actually a touch screen kiosk through which patients can quickly answer questions about their encounters with doctors.
She says that a patient's input instantly becomes a colourful measure displayed on a 24-inch monitor at the back of the clinic - red abstract orbs for below average, yellow for average, and green for above-average.
"This changes real time as patients put in more data," she adds.
Patients' anonymity is maintained, and their feedback about n particular doctors is included in private e-mails to those doctors at the end of each week.
The kiosks are collecting data for eight weeks in primary care practice sites in Tifton, Jesup, Blackshear and Moultrie, Georgia. Only two sites have the glanceable dashboard.
"Our assumption is physicians will change their behavior to get more green lights," says Dr. Wagner, and having the dashboards in only two locations may help her determine if that is true.
Patients are asked six communication-related questions such as "Did the doctor you saw today explain things in a way that was easy to understand? Did the doctor listen carefully to you? Did the doctor you saw today show respect for what you had to say?"
"We want to help health care providers maximize the relatively short time they have with patients but there has to be a way to measure that first," says Dr. Wagner.
This feasibility study will look at whether patients will take a survey while the visit is fresh on their minds, and how doctors respond.
"You could use the dashboard idea to ask questions about anything. It has a lot of application for the future," Dr. Wagner says.
Stan Sulkowski, educational program specialist in the Department of Family Medicine, has revealed that hardware and software developed for the project can be used on a laptop or even a palmtop computer.
Dr. Wagner believes that her pilot study will lead to a larger study into how to change the behaviour of doctors, though she considers physicians to be caring and competitive people.