One of the people I follow on a daily basis is KevinMD on Twitter. Why would a medical malpractice lawyer follow a physician?, you ask. Simply put – this doctor seems to get it.
In a blog he wrote today -Patient satisfaction scores improve when doctors sit | KevinMD.com – (we’ll call him Dr. Kevin – his name on his Twitter page is Kevin Pho, M.D.), Dr. Kevin brings yet another practical tip to his colleagues in the medical profession – when dealing with patients, the ‘act of sitting down’ can have a profound effect on patient satisfaction. Believe it or not, this was actually the subject of a study According to the study performed at a University of Kansas Hospital. In this study a physician documented 120 visits, half of which he conducted sitting, and the other half, standing.
What the medical community still does not seem to get is that their interactions with patients are critical many times in situations where the outcome is not good. I simply cannot tell you how many initial client interviews share a common theme – “the doctor really gave me the bums-rush and just didn’t seem to care about me as an individual.” I just had that very same conversation three times in the past two days alone. One variant on this theme occurs after a bad outcome and the patient simply wants to know what happened. Time and time again clients tell the story of trying to seek out their doctor, who dodges them, to find out what happened. I know – doctors are concerned that if they get involved in such a discussion, this will turn out to be evidence used against them by some plaintiff lawyer.
What I can share with the medical community is that if you sit and just explain a situation to a loved one or the family in general is that this is all most people (yes – not all) want to hear.
Granted – I can only speak from my limited perspective. That being said, one of the things we look for during the initial interview is the motivation of the prospective client for being in our office. If it’s financial – we shy away. Those cases are always problematic. The over-ridding theme or characteristic of a ‘good client’ is their desire to (a) just want to know what happened that went wrong or (b) make sure that what happened (which they often don’t understand because no one would tell them) doesn’t happen to someone else. Those are the clients who are appreciative even when you ultimately reject their case following investigation.
So, Dr. Kevin, you have part of the answer right. I might suggest you add on – actually trying to care about why you are sitting down talking to your patient, knowing what’s important to them and when something goes awry, taking the time to help them understand what happened. Again, from my limited experience base (which is better than the 120 people in the “Kansas Hospital’ study, that time spent with your patient or the family will probably cause you to spend less time giving a deposition in your malpractice lawsuit. In fact, you just may never have to give a deposition at all!
Keep up the good advice Dr. Kevin! Maybe I will be able to field less calls from disgruntled patients and families if your colleagues follow some of your sage advice.