Quality Communication- What’s in a Bedside Manner?
In the previous posts in this series we described two key features of a consultation that can assist your attempt to assess the true value of a consultation for an injury or pain problem. In this post, we discuss the third indicator- the quality of a practitioner’s interpersonal communication skills. Whether it’s Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Remedial Massage, Osteopathy, a Medical Consultation or a less mainstream treatment option, a low value service should be suspected if you leave an appointment feeling like you;
- were not treated with care or empathy
- were not listened to
- were not provided an opportunity to tell your story
- were not provided an opportunity to ask questions
- were rushed through your consultation
- did not have your therapist’s attention for the whole of your appointment
The list above speaks to the quality of a therapist’s interpersonal communication skills, and perhaps to a lesser extent the time restrictions placed on a provider by either himself/herself or his/her employer. A provider needs strong interpersonal skills to assess your history, ascertain your goals and develop a rapport. If a healthcare provider is not listening to you or allowing you to communicate information that is important to you, it is difficult for said healthcare provider to help you with your current problem or prepare you to better manage your health into the future. A healthcare provider who doesn’t give you his or her full attention, who doesn’t take interest in what you have to say, doesn’t listen, doesn’t reflect, doesn’t allow you to ask questions or take time with you won’t be able to gain a thorough grasp of your “story”. A provider needs to have an in-depth understanding of your “story” in order to develop an individualised plan of care for both your immediate symptoms and your long-term health management.
It’s our view that a truly high value service should be highly consultative and leave you feeling listened to, understood and cared for. It should leave you feeling clear about the anticipated trajectory of your pathway to better health, and clear about any possible contingencies that might arise. Regardless of how intelligent, skilled, confident or knowledgeable a provider is, or appears to be, if you find yourself with a provider who doesn’t appear to care about your predicament, who doesn’t seem interested, who is rushed, doesn’t listen, interrupts you, doesn’t give you a chance to ask questions or is juggling multiple patients, it would be reasonable for you to conclude that you could receive higher value care elsewhere.
In the next post in this series, we take a look at the fourth feature of a consultation that you can rely upon to assess the value of a proposed (or already initiated) course of treatment.