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The Importance of Interpersonal Skills for Physicians

Adaptive Medical Partners | Healthcare Administrators, Physician Recruiting

Being a great physician doesn’t just mean being the most brilliant doctor. More research is showing that a physician’s bedside manner can improve patient health outcomes. When doctors and patients are able to engage in effective and meaningful communication, patients are empowered to participate more in their care, leading to better and faster recoveries.

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills are people skills. They are the skills that measure a person’s emotional, not just their academic, intelligence. These skills include but are not limited to the ability to motivate, communicate, solve problems and, probably most valuable of all, empathize.

It may seem obvious, but a physician who possesses certain interpersonal skills can actually achieve better clinical results. Empathy allows for doctors to better understand and relate to their patients. Communication skills are critical to learning about patients and delivering the most effective treatments possible. Motivating skills can help doctors to engage their patients in participating in their healthcare and to take up the most critical part of most treatment plans: the daily maintenance of healthy habits and therapies.

Why Communication Matters

Many patients report feeling that their doctors are rushed or disconnected when they visit with them. These feelings leave patients without a full understanding of what was discussed during the appointment and holding back information they felt uncomfortable sharing at the time.

When a doctor takes time to listen and consider the concerns of patients, they feel more comfortable asking tough questions and sharing information they would have withheld from an uncaring physician. This mutual sharing of information will give the physician more tools to perform their job and make it more likely that the patient fully understands their condition. The cumulative effect is a more positive experience for the patient coupled with better health outcomes.

What Are the Barriers to Better Doctor-Patient Relationships?

One of the key components of “active listening” is time. In order to give someone the attention they need, one has to be patient, calm and present. When physicians are evaluated by the number of patients they see per unit of time, they begin to adopt a manner of practice that is more focused on efficient use of time and not forming personal connections.

Additionally, medical schools and residency programs offer little education on communication skills. As these programs continue to focus on academic success and intellectual aptitudes, more and more physicians will be produced with deficiencies in emotional intelligence. Hospitals are not immune, as they too fall victim to this overemphasis of technical skills while missing the importance of interpersonal prowess.

According to one survey, two-thirds of patients are discharged from the hospital without understanding their diagnosis and 60 percent of patients misunderstand their discharge instructions. If these trends continue, patients will receive care that isn’t comprehensive and may not address the root cause of their symptoms. In turn, patient readmission rates will remain stagnant or even increase, resulting in a greater cost to hospitals.

Poor communication will also lead to useless testing and unnecessary interventions. This may actually hurt patients and cost the healthcare system money.

What Do Healthcare Institutions Need to Do?

There is already a shift occurring in both medical schools and residency programs to emphasize the importance of these interpersonal skills for applicants. More programs are adopting alternative interview styles, such as the multi mini-interview, or MMI, model, in order to better evaluate candidates on these “soft” skills and not just technical knowledge.

This new understanding must also change hiring practices for healthcare institutions. Evaluation for these skills must be incorporated in the process. Partnering with experienced recruitment firms who understand how to look for these soft skills, like Adaptive Medical Partners, can ensure healthcare facilities get the right physicians.

In the end, institutions must see the importance in making sure their staff is emotionally intelligent if they are to reach their full potential in providing the highest quality healthcare. This way, patient outcomes will improve — and the healthcare institution can get on the path to sustainable success.

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