Bedside manner an important skill for doctors

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Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013 4:48 pm | Updated: 5:11 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

Bedside manner seems to come naturally to some, but many of us have known doctors who make us feel like they don't care. Now new research is making a case for compassion and getting hospitals involved in teaching critical skills to new physicians.

The namesake doctor on the TV show House was known for his bad bedside manner. Now there's a push to make sure new doctors don't inherit his habits.

Heather Walker runs a program aimed at teaching medical students better bedside manner. "Are they compassionate? Are they, you know, looking at patient satisfaction? Communication is important, because you have to have the patient build trust in you and have them be comfortable enough to sometimes share really personal things that you as a physician need to know in order to help them."

Students are graded on their interaction by faculty and the patient-actor. "You're not going to come back to somebody if they're rude, or if they're unfeeling, or uncaring or treating you, hum not like a human being."

Research shows patients who feel their doctor has a good bedside manner are more compliant with their treatment regimen and are less likely to experience complications. And get this, a recent study from Michigan State University shows trust and empathy associated with a positive physician-patient encounter actually changes the brain's response to stress and increases pain tolerance.

"It's not just trying to figure out what's going on with the patient, but they also have to feel, you know, they have to have empathy for the patient."

Good bedside manner could also help doctors avoid malpractice lawsuits. Studies show patients are less likely to sue doctors they feel care about them, even if they made a medical mistake.

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