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Posted by Capson Team on Mar 23, 2015 2:46:00 PM

6 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Improve Your Bedside Manner

Bedside manner doctor

Have any of your patients complained that a previous doctor was insensitive, or mentioned that another physician rushed them along? Have you ever been personally faced with an unsavory online review?

If so, you’re not alone. When patients have an unsatisfactory experience with a physician or practice, they’re not staying silent. They’re speaking out on sites such as Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, and RateMDs. Alas, it’s not all positive feedback.Vanguard Communications conducted a national study that analyzed over 3,500 reviews of 300 physicians. It sought to determine the key reasons for complaints on physician review sites. Their research determined that 43.1% of the negative reviews cited poor bedside manner and indifference. Another 35.3% of the posts mentioned insufficient customer service, and 21.5% referenced inadequate medical skills, including misdiagnoses or outright mistakes.

As demonstrated by the study, the majority of patient-complaints involved dissatisfaction with the physician’s bedside manner. However, physicians aren’t entirely to blame. Research from John Hopkins indicates that up-and-coming physicians frequently encountered a lack of training for basic communication skills. If that’s the case, it’s possible that increased training and education could be viable solutions.

Improving Your Bedside Manner Can Reduce Negative Online Reviews

Physicians who project a courteous bedside manner have higher satisfaction scores, fewer claims, and a lesser likelihood of being sued. Furthermore, good bedside manner is often associated with quicker patient recovery times and lower likelihood of readmission. By embracing etiquette-based communication, a physician could prevent a dramatic amount of complaints or otherwise negative online reviews. Below are several ways you can begin improving your skills immediately. 

6 Ways to Improve Your Bedside Manner

1. Remember to introduce yourself. Research from John Hopkins found that only 10% of patients could name the doctor who provided care for them during their stay in a hospital. The data indicated this was due to lack of proper introductions. When you meet someone for the first time, surely you don’t just walk up and start speaking. Patients should receive the same treatment! Bonus tip: Posting photos with names of physicians and team members in your waiting room can give your practice a friendlier atmosphere.


2. Explain your role in the patient’s care. Perception is reality, which is why it’s essential to set expectations at the beginning of a professional relationship. If you will be observing a patient over a longer period of time, it’s best to clearly describe your role, including your responsibilities involving follow-up care. If you are a specialist or surgeon who’s been brought in for a brief consultation, it’s important that this is expressed to the patient. Otherwise, the patient might feel abandoned or insignificant when you don’t visit him again. While you might see a completed task, he could interpret it as your failure to follow-up. Regardless of the size of your role, explaining your part in the patient’s care can reduce the stress and uncertainty associated with the process.


3. Sit down with the patient. The University of Kansas Hospital performed a study that documented a physician during 120 patient visits. Half of these visits were conducted while he was sitting. During the other visits, the physician remained standing for the duration of the appointment. The results were surprising: when the physician was seated, patients perceived him as spending more time with them. In reality, the opposite was true. His standing visits were an average of 1 minutes and 28 seconds, while the seated visits barely lasted over a minute. On average, patients guessed that the standing meetings lasted around 3 minutes and 44 seconds, and that the seated visits lasted over five minutes. Taking the time to sit down with someone demonstrates respect and reduces the likelihood of appearing rushed. Doing so allows the patient to feel valued and appreciated. It can be tough to create a new habit, so remember this: placing an extra chair or stool in each room serves as a simple reminder to sit on it.


4. Be Mindful of Your Body Language. Make eye contact; sit up straight, and use open body language when interacting with a patient. Avoid defensive posture such as crossing your arms, fidgeting with your pen or stethoscope, or repeatedly tapping your fingers. Defensive body language can be seen as a sign of impatience, or worse, indifference. Instead of giving into one of these undesirable habits, try to nod and express a genuine interest in what the patient is saying.


5. Ask open ended-questions. Asking a yes or no question such as, “Do you feel any pain?” leads to a very different answer than, “How are you feeling this morning?” Open-ended questions facilitate a discussion and encourage patients to fully describe their symptoms. This leads to a more robust understanding of the issue at hand and a better chance of being able to solve it. Furthermore, patients who are given the opportunity to openly discuss an issue tend to feel happier and more understood than those who didn’t get a similar opportunity.


6. Empathize with the patient and offer reassurance. What might be a routine diagnosis for you could be a life-changing event for a patient. Take the time to observe the patient’s reaction, and be available to answer any questions or concerns, including deeper implications the patient may be trying to process. Even if you’ve heard the question 100 times before, it doesn’t mean it’s not a real concern in someone else’s eyes. A blunt answer or nonchalant attitude could be devastating to a patient.
The importance of listening to a patient’s concerns is especially important for OB/GYNs interacting with expectant mothers. Jay Staub, Capson Medical Director, also serves as the lead OB/GYN at Health Central Women’s Care in Dallas, Texas. He works with moms-to-be on a daily basis. “It’s perfectly natural to be nervous or concerned about the birth of your child, especially your first,” says Staub. “Taking the time to carefully listen to my patients’ concerns and offer a bit of reassurance is a vital part of the job. Any doctor can give a recommendation or diagnosis. It’s our job to have a conversation around it and let the patient know they’re in good hands.” Well said, Dr. Staub.
Never underestimate the power of good etiquette.

Focusing on this manageable area of improvement could dramatically enhance your reputation. Courteous, respectful bedside manner can lead to better online reviews, higher overall satisfaction scores, and a lower risk of medical malpractice claims.

Are you interested in learning more about reputation protection?

Capson Physicians Insurance Company offers a variety of services that help protect your reputation, and our insureds receive this extraordinary protection long before a claim occurs. That’s why we’re the only medical malpractice insurance carrier that offers proactive patient feedback monitoring surveys through Press Ganey – a tool that can help you prevent claims in the first place.

If you’re unsure how patients perceive your bedside manner, don’t guess. Learn how our patient feedback monitoring surveys can increase patient satisfaction and how they can help safeguard your practice by giving us a call at (888) 209- 4760.


Topics: Malpractice Claim Prevention, Best Practices

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