Dr. Who? What happened when a CMO learned physicians weren't introducing themselves to patients

Physicians aren't listening to their patients, according to an op-ed in The New York Times. Poor bedside manner can have serious ramifications, including incorrect diagnoses and adverse health outcomes.

The article cited the following shortfalls in physician-patient communication.

  • Patients speak for 18 seconds on average before physicians interrupt.
  • Two-thirds of patients are discharged without understanding their diagnosis.
  • 60 percent of patients misunderstand directions from their healthcare provider.
  • 70 percent of adverse health outcomes in hospitals were a result of communication failure, according to a study by the Joint Commission.
  • "Interpersonal and communication skills" have only been a key competency for physicians since 1999, when it was recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Contributor Nirmal Joshi, MD, CMO of PinnacleHealth System, teamed up with his colleagues to launch a program to improve physician communication in the Harrisburg, Pa., hospital system. At the start of the program, only about a quarter of patients could identify their healthcare providers because physicians were only introducing themselves about a quarter of the time, according to Dr. Joshi.

Two years after establishing a training program, the hospital's predicted patient satisfaction score increased 40 percentile points in national rankings, according to Dr. Joshi.

"We need to move away from the perception that social skills and better communication are a kind of optional extra for doctors. A good bedside manner is simply good medicine," Dr. Joshi writes.

More articles on integration and physician issues:

Top 3 concerns for residents, from AMA President Dr. Robert Wah

New test rates medical school students' patient engagement

3 challenges for hospitals integrating physician groups

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