There is indisputable scientific evidence that one of the biggest difference between patients reporting a good medical experience and a bad one is their personal feelings about the way they were treated. Much of this translates into the medical professionals’ “bedside manners.” It is not just the treating physician, however, that influences the patient’s experience; rather it is everyone that they encounter from the time they walk in the door until the time they go home.
Beyond ratings, why does this matter? According to Science Direct it can have a dramatic business impact:
The increasing focus on patient satisfaction and consumer-driven health care, combined with the recent rise in online social media, have resulted in the growing trend of patients rating physicians on publicly accessible web sites. The number and use of such web sites continue to grow despite potential concerns about the validity of these ratings and negative physician perception. These web sites can influence patient decision making regarding physician selection.
This holds true regardless of the type of medicine, from family practice to plastic surgery.
What are BedSide Manners Afterall
“Good bedside manner is… the ability of a clinician to navigate the social synapse and make a patient feel at ease.” (Source).
A fantastic article published by the Baylor University Medical Center, and republished by the National Institutes of Health, looked at what this really means, and how it evolved. What is interesting is that in the world of medical professionals this does not necessarily mean having to be personable, or super friendly; but rather, it turns out that bedside manner can just as easily be thought of as being professional and courteous to your patients. (source).
Jock Murray, former dean of the Dalhousie Medical School, speaking to the American College of Physicians in 2006, commented on the general erosion of professionalism and a growing public cynicism about the profession. He called for a new focus on the three core principles of professionalism: competency, the primacy of patient welfare, and social justice. Professionalism is not an attempt to protect physicians’ power and status, he noted, but a call to practice medicine in patients’ best interests…
The physician ought also to be confidential, very chaste, sober, not a winebibber, and he ought to be fastidious in everything, for this is what the profession demands. He ought to have an appearance and approach that is distinguished. Everything ought to be in moderation, for these things are advantageous, so it is said. Be solicitous in your approach to the patient, not with head thrown back (arrogantly) or hesitantly with lowered glance, but with head inclined slightly as the art demands.
He ought to hold his head humbly and evenly; his hair should not be too much smoothed down, nor his beard curled like that of a degenerate youth. Gravity signifies breadth of experience. He should approach the patient with moderate steps, not noisily, gazing calmly at the sick bed. He should endure peacefully the insults of the patients since those suffering from melancholic or frenetic ailments are likely to hurl evil words at physicians.
According to Forbes Magazine:
More than half of patients reviewing their doctors want them to have everything from compassion to personality and a bedside manner, an analysis of seven million reviews released by Healthgrades and the Medical Group Management Association shows.
The MGMA-Healthgrades analysis shows 52% of patients mentioning the need for their doctor to have at least one of the following: compassion, comfort, patience, personality or bedside manner. And nearly one-quarter or 23% of commenters mentioned a doctor’s time, knowledge, insurance, appointment scheduling and communication.
How Bedside Manners Work In Your Favor
In 2016 the UCLA Medical School wrote what can only be described as a pivotal article on the subject, “The Importance of Bedside Manner to Trust and Engagement,” in which the benefits of having good and professional bedside manners will help you succeed in your practice. Surprisingly, this not only has to do with how patients feel about you and your practice, but also about how well they take in and follow aftercare instructions that help to make their medical intervention a success.
The ultimate goal of any encounter is to promote trust and healing. How physicians, nurses, social workers and even housekeeping approach patients and their families can directly affect the overall experience for patients and their willingness to learn. With good bedside manner, providers are ultimately able to improve communication and reduce errors.
As one plastic surgeon in Atlanta put it: “Finding the right physician (not just in plastic surgery but in any field of medicine) can be quite a journey. For some patients, their ideal doctor is blunt, while others prefer one who is more nurturing. One patient may want their physician to be quick during consultations, while another prefers one who spends more time with them. These varying types of doctors exist in every specialty, from family medicine to oncology, and even in plastic surgery…. After more than twenty years of working with patients as a double board-certified plastic surgeon, I’ve recognized that for a patient who is choosing their surgeon, there are two important pieces of the puzzle: the surgeon’s qualifications or medical ability (including cosmetic surgery before and after photos to show the results they’ve achieved) and their personality. In order for a procedure to go smoothly, it’s crucial that the surgeon and the patient feel comfortable enough with each other to openly and honestly communicate.”
Establishing Bedside Manners: Best Practices
This is a topic that is now being taught as part of the core curriculum in medical schools for a reason. It is next to impossible to have a successful practice, or be a successful doctor, nurse, or office manager if you do not have the basics down. At a minimum, the following will help you get there. (Source).
From check-in to check-out, the importance of bedside manner is to build trust and engage the patient. What, when and how information is communicated makes all the difference.
- Using words the patient can understand, not medical jargon. This means recognizing their psychosocial, educational and cultural background.
- Making eye contact when talking.
- Introducing themselves to the patient and family every time. At Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, some patients are working with many different teams. They see residents, students, physicians, nurses and more.
- Practicing body language that is honest but doesn’t demonstrate haste.
These practices are part of CICARE, an evidence-based acronym that creates a standard process for interactions with patients, families, and colleagues.
Explaining what’s going to happen and asking permission from the patient before performing an exam is an equal part of proper bedside manner. Nevertheless, teach at every encounter. Reiterate care instructions to the patient so they know how to clean a wound or when to take medications after discharge.
Family members and caregivers should be involved, as well.
All of these elements contribute to the patient’s overall experience while increasing their chances of following a treatment plan at home.