For the majority of people, going to the doctor is not a whole lot of fun. Even if it is for nothing more than a routine checkup, the buildup of anxiety and fear that something could be wrong makes many people uncomfortable. Talking frankly about health issues and other concerns is not something that most of us are used to doing, and an unpleasant or unprofessional interaction with a hospital staff can be distressing.
In that regard, bedside manner is a vitally important skill that too many hospitals continue to overlook. While going to a good medical school, gaining proper experience, and learning to use the latest in high-tech equipment and tools are all important, so too is the way that a hospital staff interacts with its patients. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, doctors in training often fail to do even the simplest things like introducing themselves, sitting down with patients, and explaining their role in the treatment process. Patients, for their part, are often hesitant to speak their minds or ask their doctors questions when they don’t understand something that is said.
Empathy is a word that describes one’s ability to share and understand the feelings of others—to step into their shoes, if you will. For doctors, being empathetic may mean using active listening to deepen their understanding of a patient’s concerns, fears, and questions. Hospital staff who demonstrate empathy and good bedside manner aren’t strictly having a positive impact on their patients psyches either. According to a study conducted in the medical journal PLOS One, whether or not a healthcare provider was given relationship-focused training had a significant effect on the outcomes of patients with obesity, diabetes, asthma, and osteoarthritis. In some cases, weight loss, blood pressure, and pain levels were affected.
One of the things that hospitals have been doing a good job at is in introducing new technology into patients’ rooms to try and calm any anxieties that they might have regarding their stay. A hospital in Greenville, for example, has already begun to bring iPads into their rooms in order to ease children’s nerves. Furthermore, for older patients, the ability to see x-rays, electronic medical records and other digital data in real time on a computer screen can help give them a better understanding of obstacles that lie ahead. These are all great measures that can help ease the fears of patients, while also helping to alleviate some of the emotional burden that doctors and nurses with good bedside manner can sometimes carry.
While new and future technology is poised to revolutionize the way that hospitals treat their patients, none of that is going to be possible without the proper infrastructure in place. Investing in the latest technologies, and migrating hospital systems over to the cloud are both vital steps towards achieving a higher level of patient care.
Combining old-fashioned empathy training with the latest in technology can bolster bedside manner, and vastly improve the partnership between patients and their doctors and nurses.