Let’s face it: doctors can be intimidating. Pregnancy and childbirth are pretty intimidating, too, especially the first time around. There’s comforting news, however, coming from an investigative study conducted at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee that suggests a very simple way to minimize the doctor-patient intimidation. Turns out, the happiest patients are those that have a chance to get to know their doctor a little bit.

The Vanderbilt study took place at an orthopedic trauma center; although its outcome isn’t guaranteed to work in a pregnancy-based setting, the study is ultimately about the human factor. In the world of medicine, there’s no escaping the human factor. Every medical specialty could probably benefit from this idea that is quick, easy, and “doesn’t even cost a nickel,” according to Dr. Alex Jahangir, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation at the Vanderbilt orthopedic center.

One hundred patients admitted to the orthopedic trauma center were given “biosketch” cards describing the center’s six physicians in friendly, personal terms. The cards portrayed the doctors as real people who were doctors with multi-dimensional lives that included families, personal interests, hobbies, and such.

A second group of 112 patients did not get biosketch cards.

All 212 patients in the study - those getting biosketch cards and those who did not - were contacted in the first couple of weeks after leaving the hospital. They were asked to rate their satisfaction with the care they received during hospitalization.

Two of the most revealing results of the study:

  • When patients don’t get to know their doctors, 82 percent to 90 percent of them don’t remember their doctors’ names just two weeks after release from care.
  • Those who got biosketch cards and felt they got to know their doctors as people scored their satisfaction with the experience 22 percent higher than the group without cards.

Patients undergoing hospitalized treatment for orthopedic injuries and illness may be faced with a medical team composed of strangers. That’s not likely to happen between women and their obstetricians and gynecologists. The doctor-patient relationship surrounding pregnancy is much closer by virtue of repeated visits over an extended period of time. Even so, time for a relaxed chat is limited. The study, however, does suggest a little personal touch in the beginning via a biosketch card might go a long way toward breaking the ice when a new patient comes into the care of a reproductive specialist.

Dr. Jahangir says he thinks people in general “recover better when they are more comfortable with the care” they receive. He suggests this “easy, cheap intervention” is in keeping with the current healthcare reimbursements shifts that emphasize quality over quantity.

Source: Preidt, Robert. “Hospital Stay May Improve When Doctor Takes Time to Connect.” Medline Plus. US National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nov. 6, 2013. Web. Nov. 19, 2013.

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