Today, however, I am trying to get my doctors to adopt this approach. Wouldn't it be great if an appointment went something like this:
DOC (with direct eye contact): Good afternoon, Amy. What exactly is bothering you today?
ME: I can't digest food.
DOC: Is that before or after you've eaten it?
ME: After, of course. (I chuckle)
DOC (puts hand on my shoulder and smiles): Of course it's after. And how long has this problem been going on?
ME: Six months.
DOC: You mean you haven't pooped for six months?
ME: Sort of.
DOC: Do you also burp a lot?
DOC: So it's coming out one end but not the other?
DOC: Interesting (he sits down)
ME: What are possible diagnoses?
DOC: Hmmm. Perhaps it's the Gobloots like Lucy had in an episode of I Love Lucy. We will get to the bottom of it, pun intended. I don't want to unnecessarily cause you alarm when it's, most likely, a minor issue.
ME: Thank you, Doc. Do you know you look like Bradley Cooper and I want to kiss you?
(C'mon! We've all had at least one doctor like that? )
DOC: Sure. Come here.....(Hee hee)
The point is that the Doc is focused, not shuffling papers, not answering the phone, not distracted by what's going on outside the window, and is directly and clearly taking care of me with the four qualities I describe above.
- He has levity or "lightness of mind, character, or behavior." (NOTE: This does not mean uninterested or uneducated. It means open-minded and acting with an open heart.)
- He's brief but to the point.
- He's clear and lucid "as to perception or understanding and his words are free from ambiguity."
- He's witty because his keen perception and cleverly apt expressions "make connections between ideas that can awaken pleasure." (Eye contact. Touching my shoulder. Ricky Ricardo. Not distracted and that kiss!)
Moreover, new doctors performed all five of the recommended behaviors like touch, eye contact and sitting down, during just four percent of all patient encounters. They were only slightly more likely to introduce themselves to patients during their first encounter than during a later one.
And good bedside manner has been proven to have a positive impact on patient health!
From a study at Massachusetts General Hospital, lead author and psychologist John Kelley says: "Our results show that the beneficial effects of a good patient-clinician relationship on health care outcomes are of similar magnitude to many well-established medical treatments." He added that "many of these medical treatments, while very important, need to balance their benefits against accompanying unwanted side effects. In contrast, there are no negative side effects to a good patient-clinician relationship."
NO NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS TO A GOOD PATIENT-CLINICIAN RELATIONSHIP. Hear that doctors?
The study goes on to say: The review found that relationship-focused training had a small but statistically significant effect on the specific health outcomes in patients with obesity, diabetes, asthma, or osteoarthritis. Among other things, it could affect weight loss, blood pressure, blood sugar and lipid levels, and pain. In fact, the researchers noted that the impact was greater than the reported effects of low-dose aspirin or cholesterol-lowering statins for preventing heart attack.
The researchers all say hospitals and training program officials can take simple steps to improve things, such as providing extra chairs and photos of the care team in patient rooms. They suggest adding lessons on etiquette-based communication to the curriculum. Really?
Needless to say, I am still Dying to Live and hope to follow 'doctor's orders' when they are delivered with levity, brevity, clarity and wit.
Marcus Welby where are you now? Never mind. I'll *ahem* take that kiss from Dr. Steven Kiley (a young James Brolin) instead.