According to a telephone survey conducted by the American Board of Medical Specialties between May 16-19, 2008, nine out of 10 Americans ranked communication skills and board certification highest in important qualities they look for in choosing a doctor.

Ninety-five percent of respondents ranked communication skills and bedside manners as important and ninety-one percent ranked board certification as important. Hence, most Americans rank bedside manner and communications skills at the top of the list of qualities, far ahead of the physicians’ hospital affiliation, office location or place of training.

ABMS president and CEO Kevin Weiss, MD stated, “Communication skills are increasingly recognized as an essential component of quality healthcare, and not something that’s nice, but not necessary,” Dr. Weiss said. “These survey findings confirm that patients are demanding that their doctors treat them not just with medicines and procedures, but with empathy and information that they understand.”

When respondents were asked to select the “most important” physician attribute, 34 percent named bedside manner and communication skills. 25 percent of respondents listed board certification as the “most important” physician attribute, even though the survey also showed that the majority of respondents didn’t understand what board certification is.

The results of this survey go back to the famous quote, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.” Clinical skills and continuing education are essential but they will never be leveraged when the physician doesn’t have the appropriate communication skills. What is included in appropriate communication skills and bedside manners:

  • Be able to develop a trusting relationship and rapport in a short amount of time
  • Ask questions and then shut up to hear the answer
  • Allow the patient to finish a sentence without getting interrupted
  • Listen contextually
  • Be empathetic
  • Speak in a language that is understood by the patient
  • Controlling your own emotions
  • Stay calm even in hectic times

Communication is the bridge between physician and patient which sets the foundation for a successful healing partnership.

And by the way, learning these essential skills isn’t only effective in the profession but also in the personal life.