There have been many studies examining the effects of sitting versus standing at work in terms of many factors, including work productivity, long-term physical harms to the body, and more. However, a new study has indicated that in medical settings, a doctor’s choice to sit or stand doesn’t just affect him or her - it affects the patient as well.
This new research from University of Kansas Hospital shows that doctors taking the time to sit down while interacting with patients correlates with higher patient satisfaction. This does not necessarily mean that the patient receives better care than they would from a standing doctor, but it is certainly perceived that way by the patient in most situations. The majority of patients who meet with doctors who sit during their consultation perceive the appointment as lasting longer, express a greater understanding of their condition afterwards, and are overall more satisfied with their care than patients who meet with a doctor who remains standing during the appointment.
Why do patients care whether you sit or stand?
The answer all has to do with interpersonal communication, and the effects it has on our relationships and interactions with every person who we come into contact during our day. Body language including everything from eye contact, to hand gestures, to tone of voice, and of course body posture, can give different meaning to words and positively or negatively impact the message a person communicates to another.
Patient surveys have shown that communication is the number one defining factor in patient satisfaction, which can prove difficult for doctors considering the average doctor appointment lasts only 12 minutes long. Advancements in technology and and the increasing digitization of healthcare can take a toll on the doctor-patient relationship as well. For example, with the implementation of EHRs, many doctors feel they spend more time clicking on a computer screen than actually communicating with a patient.
Simply stepping away from the door, taking a seat and looking the patient in the eyes can drastically improve the short amount of time a patient has with his or her doctor. This communicates to patients that their time is valued, that their well-being and any issues they might have are treated with importance and taken seriously by their physician. They no longer feel as if the appointment is being rushed, and feel more comfortable to ask questions and discuss concerns with their physician. This has a detrimental effect on the patient-physician relationship, and it hampers the physician's ability to properly educate the patient on their condition or other important health information.
Capturing the patient story
Health care is a service industry, and the customer's, or patient’s, mental and physical health and well-being are the products at hand. Thus, there is a level of customer service that should always be balanced with the technical side of taking care of patients. CEO and chairman of Landmark Hospitals and Technomad, William Kapp, III, MD, emphasises that “capturing the complete patient story while remaining focused on the human life at hand is what the art of medicine is all about.”
Yes, a doctor’s primary job is to perform the proper medical procedures, whether it be surgery, diagnosing an illness, or simply checking a patient’s heartbeat. But there is much more to the ‘human life at hand’ than technical details and scientific diagnoses. Forming a personal relationship, based on humanness and understanding as opposed to just science and medicine, goes a long way in ensuring a patient’s overall health and well-being.