Patients often complain that they are unable to spend an adequate amount of time with their healthcare provider during a medical visit; these complaints are not unfounded. According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2016, most physicians spend an average of 13-16 minutes with a patient during a single visit (Peckham, 2016). Healthcare providers take an oath to care for the well-being of all patients, and I believe that this begins with each visit. It is imperative that healthcare providers offer patients respect, empathy, and attention during each visit. In my own experience, I have witnessed patients complain that their physician does not pay attention, or even provide eye contact, when speaking to them, and they feel rushed and unwelcome during their visit. Physicians may type away on their computers and direct questions at the patient in a robot-like manner. Such behaviors leave patients feeling unsatisfied.
Patients feel more comfortable when the doctor provides them with undivided attention.
Research indicates that overall satisfaction with primary care providers is most closely linked to doctor communication.
I recently had the opportunity to learn first-hand the value of physician-patient communication. I attended a patient panel last month, consisting of critically ill patients classified as survivors of their conditions. The two patients included a five-year old girl, who survived a rare form of leukemia, and a traumatic-brain-injury survivor. Both patients received excellent clinical care at the University of Virginia and Duke medical systems. The mother of the leukemia survivor stated that she believes the physicians, who are fully invested in the health and well-being of their patients, are what separates great medical centers from average ones. These physicians give their undivided attention to patients at each visit. The traumatic-brain-injury patient concurred, stating that all of his doctors went the extra mile by calling to check on him and his family, as well as answering insurance questions typically answered by the administrative staff. Elite medical centers staffed with physicians, such as these, not only care for the patient but also for the family and friends, which ensures that the doctors meet the needs for information, support, and care.
Effective communication between the physician and the patient, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration, can lead to positive outcomes. Physicians, who are effective communicators, positively influence the emotional and physical health of the patient, leading to the improvement of symptom resolution, more effective pain control, functional status, and patient satisfaction (McAlinden, 2014). Interdisciplinary collaboration is another key element of effective healthcare. Just as with effective communication, the collaboration of multiple care providers in determining an appropriate treatment plan for a patient is associated with improved quality of care and safety (Ponte, et al., 2010).
Clinicians are human, just like everyone else, but the ability to remain upbeat, positive, and genuinely care for patients, and their families, sets them apart as true professionals. Communication and the willingness to devote time to the patient are essential components of effective and emphatic care. This sense of caring can make a world of difference in the life of a patient.
McAlinden, C. (2014). The importance of doctor-patient communication. British Journal of Hospital Medicine, 75(2), 64-65.
Paddison, C.A., Abel, G.A., Roland, M.O., Elliot, M.N., Lyratzopoulous, G., & Campbell, J.L. (2015). Drivers of overall satisfaction with primary care: Evidence from the English General Practice Patient Survey. Health Expectations, 18(5), 1081-92.
Peckham, C. (2016). Medscape physicians compensation report 2016. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/ features/slideshow/ compensation/2016/public/ overview#page=26.
Ponte, P.R., Gross, A.H., Milliman-Richard, Y.J., & Lacey, K. (2010). Interdisciplinary teamwork and collaboration: An essential element of a positive practice environment. Annual Review of Nursing Research, 28, 159-89.