Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bedside Manner vs. Medical Talent

In a recent Wall Street Journal Health Blog, Jacob Goldstein discusses the importance of doctor etiquette referring to Harvard psychiatrist Michael Kahn's New England Journal of Medicine article that proposes 6 rules for doctor behavior.

Etiquette should be at the bottom of the list of what patients want when they are in the hospital. The #1 priority while you’re in a hospital is to be discharged as soon as possible in a healthier state than when you were admitted. You need a smart, diligent, caring, hard-working, talented physician in charge of your care and/or surgery. The doctor could have the best etiquette in town, but if s/he doesn’t have the skills and determination then you are in trouble.

Etiquette may make your hospital stay more appealing, but it is not the benchmark you want to measure. I know some physician colleagues who have great etiquette skills, but I wouldn’t have them take care of me, and then I know some others who have no “bedside manner” at all, but take incredible care of their patients.

Lets not forget our priorities. If the doctor has proper etiquette then that’s icing on the cake. You can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

Robert Cykiert, M.D.