How well do you know your patients? Where are they from? What kind of work do they do? How many children do they have? What types of lifestyles do they lead? What makes them laugh? What are their favorite hobbies? If you think questions such as these are superfluous, or you can’t imagine how you could possibly know that much about a patient you’ve seen for 10 minutes or less, you might want to rethink your bedside manner.
One of the most common complaints among patients is that their doctors don’t spend enough time with them. These patients are much more likely to describe their healthcare experience as being highly unsatisfactory. But the real kicker is this: These patients are also much more likely to sue their doctors for malpractice. After all, it’s much easier to take punitive action against someone you don’t have a strong personal relationship with.
Recent study confirms importance of building closer relationships with patients.
According to Yahoo’s HealthDay News, researchers from the American College of Physicians have found a definite link between the personal connection between doctor and patient and the resulting quality of healthcare. The study included 155,590 adults in a primary care network.
Healthcare is often fragmented and uncoordinated, according to the study. In fact, patients often see different doctors, even within a subspecialized group practice. The patients who have strong relationships with one specific doctor are more likely to receive care that’s consistent with recommended medical guidelines. Conversely, a patient who is connected to a practice but not a particular physician is much less likely to receive care that’s consistent with guidelines, and much less likely to be satisfied with his or her care.
“This study provides strong evidence for the value of having a regular doctor,” said lead author,
Steven Atlas, MD, director of primary care quality improvement at Massachusetts General Hospital. An American College of Physicians news release announced the findings from the March 3 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
Could your ‘bedside manner’ prevent a malpractice suit?
You bet it could. Since the malpractice insurance crisis of the 1970s, when skyrocketing insurance premiums put more than a few physicians out of business, studies have consistently shown that a bad bedside manner is far more likely to land you in court than a bad diagnosis or a bad outcome.
The simple fact is that a patient who sees the same doctor regularly and feels connected to that doctor is far, far less likely to feel dissatisfied enough to bring a lawsuit. You can avoid a malpractice suit and help create more satisfied patients with just one simple strategy: build a sense of connectedness with your patients. Spend more time with each patient. Make eye contact. Find a common interest (a hobby or sport or family tradition) that you can talk about. Help each patient feel as if you care about them as an individual instead of just a damaged body part, injury or diagnosis.