Most doctors must hurry through appointments, much to their patients’ chagrin. So it’s no surprise that 71% of respondents in a new survey on doctor-patient interactions reported they’ve experienced a lack of compassion when speaking with a medical professional, and 73% said they always or often feel rushed by their doctor.
Additional findings from the survey—conducted by The Orsini Way, a company that provides communications training for healthcare practitioners—also revealed that patients are more than twice as likely to be loyal to a particular hospital, not because of the hospital’s reputation, but because they have a good connection with the doctors and nurses on staff.
“It only takes one interaction to change someone’s life, and it can be anything from a routine visit with a doctor to the delivery of tragic news to a family. Every interaction counts,” said Anthony Orsini, DO, practicing neonatologist at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. Orlando, FL, and founder of The Orsini Way.
The survey was sent nationwide by email, with 236 adults responding (46.6% male, 53.4% female). According to the results, only 65% of patients reported being satisfied or very satisfied when interacting with their doctors the last time they visited a hospital or emergency department.
Other findings from the survey:
- 63% of respondents said they’ve left a doctor’s office without having their questions fully answered.
- 47% of respondents said they’ve had a poor interaction with a medical professional that resulted in them not returning to that hospital or emergency department.
- 39% of respondents believe physicians are generally not effective communicators.
“The overwhelming majority of physicians are compassionate by nature. It is conveying that compassion, however, that we often struggle with,” Dr. Orsini observed. “As doctors, we are taught from the beginning to set our emotions aside, but the results of this survey make it very clear that patients have a true desire to connect with their physicians and feel their compassion.”
Good for the patient, good for the doctor
Providing effective communication and compassion in every patient encounter seems an impossible task. But doing so is more than just a social nicety—it also has tangible benefits for both the patient and the doctor. Having an effective and empathetic encounter with the patient yields such benefits as better reporting of symptoms, improved diagnostic accuracy, increased patient participation in the diagnostic process, improved patient satisfaction, better ability to comply with the prescribed treatment, and improved quality of life, according to researchers who’ve studied the topic.
“Patients need to feel seen and heard, and they need to know they’re more than just a number. Making simple changes to the way physicians and nurses communicate with their patients can dramatically impact a hospital’s culture and change patient engagement for the better,” Dr. Orsini added.
Another bonus for physicians: Greater compassion and empathy with patients is also significantly associated with less clinical burnout, various investigators have shown.