Healthcare News & Insights

New study finds 5-minute conversation improves patient satisfaction

Taking the time to talk to patients can be beneficial in more ways than one. In fact, a simple five-minute conversation with hospitalized patients can significantly improve their satisfaction, according to a new study from the University of Virginia (UVA). 

The study found that making a small change in how hospital staff talk to patients can boost their overall mood and improve satisfaction with their medical care.

Asking patients about their well-being, in addition to their medical symptoms and conditions, makes patients feel like staff members care about them as people, not just as patients.

BATHE technique

The study tested the effectiveness of an intervention called BATHE, which stands for:

  • Background
  • Affect
  • Trouble
  • Handling, and
  • Empathy.

BATHE is often used in outpatient clinics, but researchers at UVA wanted to see how the technique would work for inpatient care.

Patients who had the BATHE conversation daily with their doctors were more likely to rate their medical care as excellent and more likely to express high satisfaction with their hospital stay when compared to patients receiving standard care.

For this study, standard care focused solely on treatment plans and how patients were recovering from their illness or injury.

The boost in satisfaction scores didn’t occur because patient visits were longer, but rather because the conversations made patients feel their doctors “showed genuine interest in me as a person.”

And according to physicians in the study, this conversation didn’t significantly add to time spent with patients – which is important for doctors with heavy workloads. It just provided a focus for the visit.

Using the BATHE technique might even save time, since patients may be less likely to seek further attention from staff members out of anxiety.

Quality, not quantity

BATHE conversations allow patients to talk about their psychological and life problems, and training doctors to have these conversations means they can help patients handle these issues effectively.

When using the BATHE technique, physicians encourage patients to talk about whatever’s bothering them, and then respond with empathy and encouragement.

The technique includes an entry and an exit script, which both can be adjusted for time. While most BATHE conversations last around five minutes, they can be shorter or longer, depending on the patient and the provider’s workload.

Importance of talking

Patients in hospitals often feel depressed or anxious, and when every conversation with their providers is only about medical concerns, they have few outlets for their feelings.

Taking a few minutes to check in on patients beyond evaluating their acute symptoms keeps their spirits up and greatly improves their feelings about their care.

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  1. Entrance script, exit script. Of course. Served with a forced smile.
    “How are you feeling?”
    “I am nauseated and can’t drink. Could you give me some IV fluids please?”
    “No, the doctor did not write any fluid orders for you”
    “Could you call him?”
    “Not unless you stopped making urine for 3 hours”
    Nurse touches patient on the shoulder and smiles.
    “Is there anything else I can ( not )do for you?”
    No response.
    “I hope you will feel better soon. Are you having any other problems you want me to
    (not) address”
    No response.

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