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Prescription for doctors: Sit down

A new study suggest one very easy way doctors could make their patients feel better: Sit down next to them instead of standing over them in their hospital beds.

University of Kansas researchers studied 120 patients who were recovering from spine surgery. When their doctors stopped by their beds to see how they were doing, half of the physicians stood and the other half sat down in a chair next to their paients.

When the researchers questioned the patients afterward, they found a significant difference between their perception of the amount of time their doctor spent with them and the actual time. The average actual length of time the doctor spent at the bedside when standing was one minute and 28 seconds. But patients perceived that the interaction lasted much longer--an average of three minutes and 44 seconds. When the doctor sat, the visit actually lasted an average of one minute and four seconds. But the patients perceived the visit went on for an average of five minutes and 14 seconds.

More detailed interviews with 38 of the patients found that when their doctors sat down, 95 percent rated the interaction as positive and were more likely to say they satisfied with the interaction and understood their condition better. When the doctors stood, only 61 percent of patients rated the experience as positive and more complained they didn't have enough time to ask questions.

The study shows that that little things can make a big difference in how patients feel about their doctors, the researchers say. More medical schools should teach doctors better communication skills, they say.

By Rob Stein  |  April 7, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General Health , Psychology  
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Interesting! Can you please tell us where this is published? I wonder if the doctors were randomly assigned to sit or stand, or did they do what they wanted to do?

Posted by: drl97 | April 7, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Don't know about the perception of how much time the doctor spent, but I would definitely prefer that the doctor sit down. If the doctor sits, we are more on the same level, and I am not looking up at the doctor. And, if the doctor sits down, I don't feel so much that s/he is in a hurry and anxious to leave me and get on to the next patient, but instead is able to take the time to sit down and talk with me. Yes, that's also just perception, but that's how I perceive it.

Posted by: vklip1 | April 7, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

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