Physician Burnout, Patient Satisfaction and the Good Doctor

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician-burnout-patient-satisfaction-bedside-manner-OPT-150WWhy is it so darn difficult for people to see you are a good doctor these days?

We both know you are a good doctor. When it comes to diagnosing and treating your patient's diseases and chief complaints, you do a great job. None of us devoted our 20's to med school and residency to be a crappy doctor, right? 

So why is it so hard for the patients to see that when they are filling out their patient satisfaction surveys?

Why is there such a disparity between your efforts to offer the best medical care and their Press Ganey scores??


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It takes a while for most physicians to understand the source of this double standard. That is why this whole topic of patient satisfaction is a core cause of physician burnout.

Sooner or later all of us must admit ...
When it comes to the cursed gap between the quality of your Practice of Clinical Medicine and your Patient Satisfaction scores ... 

Your patients can't tell a good doctor from a bad one.

They simply can't grade physicians from A - F based on their evaluation of your clinical skills or diagnostic abilities.

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They aren't qualified to make that judgement.

  • They don't know what good and bad clinical care look like, unless they happen to be a doctor themselves.
  • Just like you can't tell if your mechanic is good with fuel injectors ... unless you are also a mechanic.

So if they can't tell if I am a good doctor, how do they judge the quality of my care?
I think you know what's coming here ... yes?


The only thing they can judge is your people skills.

This is so important for physicians,
we actually give a special name to a doctor's people skills
... your
"Bedside Manner".

  • The quality of your clinical skills - your diagnostic capacity and the quality of your treatment plans - is what we mean when we say of a colleague, "he/she is a Good Doctor".

  • To the patient, "a Good Doctor" is a completely separate scoring system where one of the key inputs is Bedside Manner.

Bedside Manner is yet another missing skill set in medical education
alongside leadership, how to manage your boss, life balance and so many more.

We graduate with the skills to be a quality clinician and the real world of caring for real, live human patients eventually drags each of us to the unavoidable - and often frustrating - conclusion: 

patient-satisfaction-bedside-manner-physician-burnout-press-ganey-communication-skills-OPT240WIf you are a good doctor ...
and you want to have good patient satisfaction scores ... 

... it is critically important to work on your Beside Manner - your communication skills, your ability to be present to the patient and not the EMR, your empathy and Emotional Intelligence (EI). 

Because it is only when you meet this threshold ...

  • When your people proficiency - your skill with people
  • Matches your clinical proficiency - your skill with symptoms and diseases

Only Then ...
will your patients actually judge your skills as a doctor accurately.


Several Bedside Manner Power Tips

Here are some high impact bedside manner moves you can make tomorrow. These are specifically to counteract the two major destroyers of bedside manner.

This is a sample of helpful tools, not a complete communication skills training.
Each of these work independently.
You most likely do some of these already.
Pick a new one and try it out in your next practice day.

  • Take a deep breath before you enter the room or approach the bedside. Release the whirlwind and focus on this patient/family and this point in time.

  • Shake hands, sit down, face them and make eye contact.

  • Make sure the computer is not between you and the patient.

  • Let them answer your questions until they are finished. Look them in the eye.

  • When you need to access the computer, tell your patient before you shift your attention to the monitor and keyboard. "I am going to take a moment and look at the computer - to make sure I have all the information I need - and then I will be able to give you my full attention."


In the next blog post I will show you how our digital world has expanded the footprint of your bedside manner into cyber space and why this doesn't make anything easier.



How did you learn your bedside manner?
What have you found to be most important to your patients and their satisfaction scores?


Tags: Physician Burnout