Large medical groups measure "patient satisfaction" with the physician and the medical office. Doctors who are very good clinically can have horrible scores because of bad bedside manner. There are many consultants who will come into an organization and "teach" better rapport. And it is a well known fact that doctors with good communication and interpersonal skills get sued less...many times less or not at all!
Are empathy and interpersonal skills innate or can they be trained? Does medical school select for self-absorbed students or do they become jaded and arrogant from years of training and working with demanding patients? We know the science of medicine can be learned. Can the art of medicine be taught too? Is it OK to have an excellent surgeon who saves your life but has the personality of a warthog?
I think there are basic manners and ways of communicating that can be taught. (hopefully by parents at age 3 but later by consultants if that didn't happen). A small percent of doctors, like in the general population, have a personality deficit or a narcissistic personality and will never learn empathy or good communication.
The remainder of good "bedside manners" starts with giving patients information in a respectful way that they can understand. That takes time (trainable) and intuition about how to communicate with different people's personalities (innate). Good bedside manners means not badmouthing other caregivers (trainable) and also instilling confidence and trust in your ability to help the patient problem (innate).
Eye to eye contact, tone of voice are trainable, but the ability to have true respect for the patient and understanding the full context of his disease is innate.
Time will tell if the $42 million pays off. Teaching young doctors how to communicate, how to be team players with other clinicians and how to follow the golden rule (Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself) sounds simple but would certainly improve patient care going forward.
What do you think? Will it be $42 million well spent? Can bedside manners be taught?