How to Provide Better "Bedside Manner" in the Office

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This content comes from Conomikes Associates Inc., a resource on practice management tips for community physicians, practice managers and medical office staff for more than 20 years.

Patient satisfaction is greatly influenced by physician communication, especially the listening part. And there are five key elements of making patients feel heard, according to research cited by NPR:

  • sitting down to speak to the patient;
  • introducing yourself to the patient;
  • explaining your role in the patient’s care;
  • touching the patient (e.g., shaking hands); and
  • asking open-ended questions.

A separate study previously reported by Fierce Practice Management made an important point about physician’s physical touch. Patients perceived more empathy from physicians who touched them one to three times, such as through a handshake, hug, or pat on the back, according to the questionnaires of 110 first-time patients. After three touches, however, the gestures lost their positive effect as they came across as disingenuous.

Moreover, keep in mind that open-ended questions such as, "How are you feeling today?" can help build patient rapport. But remember patients who are reluctant to bring up sensitive health issues -- such as substance addiction -- may be more forthcoming when physicians ask more pointed questions.