New programs help doctors with bedside manner

October 10, 2011 2:02:21 PM PDT
It's one of the biggest complaints that patients have, that your doctor has the worst bedside manner.

When Dr. Sapna Parikh was in med school she was in class for the first two years. They didn't see patients at all until the third year. That's just how it was done for years, but now medical schools are trying to change that and the goal is to create better doctors who also have a better bedside manner.

Robert Klotman is getting a house call from the two young women who are 2nd year medical students learning to become doctors.

It's part of a new program at Mount Sinai Medical School called the Longitudinal Care experience. First year medical students are paired with a patient who they follow for two years.

"We wanted to pair students with patients for a long period time so they could really experience illness see all the ups and downs of chronic illness see all the providers they go to the diagnostic tests, go to treatments," said Dr. Valerie Parkas.

And the patient has nothing but patience as his doctors in training listen to his heart murmur, and learn to take a blood pressure measurements.

"You get to build a relationship with them, build a sense of responsibility for them," said Soo Jeong Kim, one of the second year students.

It's a sense of responsibility and a sense of empathy.

"When you see how someone is living in their house and how much trouble they have getting around it gives you a more full understanding of their life and the things they value," said Annie Levenson, another second year student.

Across the country medical schools are trying new ways to connect students and patients early on.

Students at NYU Medical School hear from patients like Saverio Senape on their very first day, learning what it's like to have colon cancer.

"It's definitely has helped me learn that people are dealing with other things besides their disease," said Rachel Kaplan.

Klotman is just hoping he's helping them become better doctors. "I see improvements. Each time they come, they're more comfortable with what they're doing," he says.

A recent study found that 71 percent of malpractice cases involved a poor doctor patient relationship.

One hope is that better communication will mean better treatment and also fewer lawsuits.