The traditional term for a doctor’s empathy for their patients is bedside manner. Some doctors have it, while others do not. Traditionally, medical providers were not professionally judged for their ability to exercise bedside manner and they surely were not evaluated poorly for their lack of it. In recent years, this evaluation of professionalism has come to the forefront and has taken on a new shape. Many medical schools across the country have begun to incorporate empathy and understanding into the curriculum of new doctors. Massachusetts has led the charge in this area and has been for some time now.
Debra Weinstein, vice president for graduate medical education at Partners Healthcare, noted the change in tides in a recent statement, “In the 1980s, when I trained, the emphasis was on medical knowledge and technical skills.” She went on to explain that the satisfaction of patients with their overall medical experience and their relationship with their physicians has become increasingly important. Partners Healthcare, which is the parent network of Massachusetts General Hospital, now requires that each of its 2,000 residents take a course called “Empathetics.” This comes as a result of a 2012 study, which indicated higher success rates for those who were randomly selected to take the course. The success shown in the study was related to how patients felt about their relationships with their doctors and whether they felt at ease during their treatment and consultations.
When residents are trained in empathy, they reap the benefits of that training when they become medical professionals. Additionally, it appears there is a strong connection between empathy training and doctors not experiencing burnout. As said by a former emergency room doctor, Laurie Drill-Mellum, who currently serves as the chief medical officer of a large malpractice insurer, “Empathy training is naturally self-rewarding. It gives doctors the love back.” Evidently, this training has also led to a reduced incidence of medical malpractice suits. Members of the medical profession have noted that this may come as a result of patients believing that their doctors have had the patient’s best interests in mind throughout their course of treatment.
There can be little doubt that litigation involving a medical malpractice lawsuit is costly and time consuming. In the state of Massachusetts, medical malpractice suits are filed when a patient demonstrates that a doctor acted in a way that is out of accordance with accepted medical practices. The empathy training doctors are now receiving has the possibility of drastically reducing the likelihood of carelessness. Another possibility is that doctors and patients may be able to come to an amicable settlement when mistakes do occur.
The incidence of medical malpractice across the state of Massachusetts is far too common and it is commendable that the medical profession is making strides to better care for patients. Unfortunately, no matter how much you like your healthcare provider a mistake that endangers your health or causes injury must not be taken lightly. If you or someone you love has suffered injury at the hands of a careless medical provider, contact attorney Peter Ventura to protect your interests. Call the office today at (508) 755-7535.