A doctor’s training hasn’t historically focused on sensitivity. And too often while juggling heavy workloads and high stress, they can be viewed as brusque, condescending or inconsiderate. But payment initiatives and increasing patient expectations are slowly forcing changes, encouraging doctors to be better listeners and more sensitive to patients’ needs.
Much of the motivation is financial. Under the 2010 health law, Medicare payments to hospitals can be affected by patient satisfaction surveys. The trend is also fueled by consumer demand. As patients pick up an increasing share of the cost of care, they’re becoming more particular about quality and experience and choosing doctors accordingly.
The University of Michigan, the Cleveland Clinic and some Catholic health systems are among medical systems experimenting with techniques to encourage physicians to be more responsive, said Tim Vogus, an associate professor of management at Vanderbilt University who has researched the relationship between compassion initiatives and patient satisfaction scores.
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