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How to Boost Inpatient Satisfaction in Minutes

News  |  By Debra Shute  
   October 16, 2017

A simple communication technique used frequently in outpatient settings improves satisfaction for hospitalized patients, study finds.

When clinicians spend a few minutes communicating with hospitalized patients "as people," their satisfaction improves significantly, according to a study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Used frequently in outpatient settings, a brief psychosocial intervention called BATHE (which stands for Background, Affect, Trouble, Handling, and Empathy), gives hospitalized patients the opportunity to share psychological or life problems as well as medical symptoms with their providers, who can then address those issues briefly and effectively, wrote UVA associate professor and clinical psychologist Claudia Allen, JD, PhD, and colleagues.

Their findings are published in the journal Family Medicine.

Moreover, the technique can be adjusted based on the amount of time available. "BATHE includes an entry and an exit script," Allen said. "You can spend three minutes doing it or you can spend an hour doing it."

Key highlights of the study include the following:

  • Patients receiving BATHE daily gave their doctors an average score of 4.77 compared with an average score of 4.0 for patients receiving standard care, which is a statistically significant difference.
  • There was no significant difference in the average score of BATHE and non-BATHE patients when they were asked to rate how much time they spent with their doctors.
  • Family medicine doctors reported that using BATHE didn't add significantly to the time they spent with patients; it just better focused their conversations.
  • Physicians also noted that patients receiving BATHE were less likely to seek extra attention from doctors or nurses out of anxiety.

"The beauty of the intervention is that it doesn't ask doctors to do anything radically different or add something totally extra," Allen noted. "It just tweaks what they're already doing to make it significantly more effective."

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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