A doctor’s training hasn’t historically focused on sensitivity. And too often while juggling heavy workloads and high stress, the often rude, brusque manner of doctors is well-known and tolerated.
Research found that barely more than half of recently hospitalized patients said they experienced compassion when getting health care, despite widespread agreement among doctors and patients that kindness is valuable and important.
But payment initiatives and increasing patient expectations are slowly forcing changes, encouraging doctors to be better listeners and more sensitive to patients’ needs, according to Kaiser Health News.
Partners HealthCare in Massachusetts and medical schools such as Duke are requiring some residents to take courses to help them be empathetic and offering training to practicing physicians, the article said. Other organizations encourage physicians to put personal details about patients in their medical charts so they can bond over topics like hobbies or sports teams. Some urge doctors to send handwritten follow-up notes to patients and their families.
The Cleveland Clinic provides physicians with patient feedback quarterly to help doctors improve their bedside manner. And the University of Rochester Medical Center recognizes doctors who demonstrate compassion in monthly notes the department head sends out to the hospital’s faculty. Those notes are often based on patient evaluations, which mention, for instance, listening well, spending extra time at a bedside and answering questions in ways the patient can understand.
“These practices are pretty simple things – recognizing people publicly for giving especially compassionate care,” Tim Vogus, an associate professor of management at Vanderbilt University who has researched the link between compassionate care and patient satisfaction, told KHN. And they can pay off in higher patient satisfaction.
If patients feel their doctors genuinely care, experts said, they’re more likely to take medications and comply with recommendations.
“Empathic care is a real intervention that has impact on patients’ adherence, whether they’ll come back to see the doctor or just skip town and go untreated,” Stephen Post, who directs the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University in New York told KHN. And listening more carefully could lead physicians to pick up cues and details they might otherwise miss, and consequently prescribe better treatments.
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