The Wall Street Journal reported in April 2013 that physicians need to improve their communication skills. Looking into the patient’s point of view, doctors might want to practice the compliments sandwich where they say something good then input the bad news, and conclude with another good tip.
Communications skills are something patients complain about. Doctors are said to be not polite, or do not listen. They are said to be busy. They may not explain something to patients. The lack of personal skills can damage the quality of care, and increase the risk of malpractice suits.
Medical schools, malpractice insurers, and medical facilities are attempting to assist doctors to better their communications. Doctors are being sent to education programs to learn basics on how to be with a patient. They are being taught to let patients speak uninterrupted, and to be compassionate.
Make a connection with someone is a way to stay out of lawsuits. Even when someone is hard to deal with, curbing anger may be the way to stay out of legal trouble. Poor communications may be what is causing rising costs.
Research shows that when physicians do not pay attention to patients, they do not get important health signs and misdiagnose illness. Patients who do not understand what their doctors explain fail to comply with their regimens, leading to preventable hospitalizations, complications and poor results. A breakdown in doctor-patient personal skills is cited in 40% or more of malpractice suits, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In the educational seminars to improve people skills, doctors get lessons from claims, for example, a surgeon who is sued for a failed knee surgery that ends up in amputation since he did not provide the obese patient an opportunity during the informed-consent process to ask questions and did not explain the risk of being overweight.
There is evidence good personal skills assist patients to follow recommended treatments and manage chronic diseases. This improves results in the management of diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.
When doctors are more polite, they ask permission to enter a room, introduce themselves to patients, and put patients at comfort. They are clear about how long an exam or procedure will take, when outcomes will be provided, what they are performing and why, and what patients should expect. The doctors thank the patient and let the patient know it has been enjoyable to help.
When patient satisfaction scores go up, there are fewer malpractice lawsuits.
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