Multiple studies have confirmed that a doctor’s bedside manner is often as critical to patient care as his medical knowledge. A review of reports by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit that provides accreditation to health care organizations, found that communication failure (rather than a provider’s lack of technical skill) was at the root of over 70 percent of serious adverse health outcomes in hospitals.
A doctor’s ability to explain, listen and empathize has a profound impact on a patient’s care. Yet, as one survey found, two out of every three patients are discharged from the hospital without even knowing their diagnosis. Another study discovered that in over 60 percent of cases, patients misunderstood directions after a visit to their doctor’s office. And on average, physicians wait just 18 seconds before interrupting patients’ narratives of their symptoms.
Studies have shown that better patient satisfaction results in better outcomes. So, doctors in Harrisburg, PA began a program in which they trained doctors in better listening, empathy, and patient communication. The results were staggering – a 40% increase in patient satisfaction, and a correlating improvement in patient outcomes. While some hospitals have caught on, much more must be done to improve communication. A brief encounter of 5 minutes can make significant changes in a patient’s life.
Read more at the NY Times.