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Implement a Communication Tool in 5 Steps

News  |  By Debra Shute  
   February 01, 2018

A quick and easy communication technique borrowed from outpatient family medicine keeps hospital clinicians focused and patients happy.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Step 5: Emphasize human connection

Patient satisfaction was the key measure the UVA study explored. Despite the narrow scope and small sample size, the research supported Allen and colleagues' hypothesis in the following ways:

1. 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.

2. There was no significant difference in the average score given by BATHE and non-BATHE patients when they were asked to rate how much time they spent with their doctors.

3. Family medicine doctors reported that using BATHE didn't add significantly to the time they spent with patients; it just better focused their conversations.

4. Physicians also noted that patients receiving BATHE were less likely to seek extra attention from doctors or nurses out of anxiety.

"Notably, patients in the intervention group were not more likely to perceive that their physician spent adequate time with them, showed them respect, or communicated well about their care," the researchers wrote. "Rather, they were more likely to report that their physician was friendly and showed a 'genuine interest in me as a person.' The added value of the intervention appears to have been to create a daily moment where the physician acknowledged the patient as a whole person rather than solely as a medical patient."

The fact that it wasn't the extra two to five minutes that boosted patient satisfaction but the feeling of human connection was an unexpected and powerful finding, says Pace.

"And then these results held even though lots of different providers were doing the intervention on different days," she says. "I think it speaks a lot to this being an intervention that anyone can do and make a difference. It was really special to see that come through in the results." 

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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