The survey of 415 U.S. adults was conducted from Dec. 2, 2004, through Feb. 5, 2005, and asked respondents open-ended questions about their preferences for a number of physician behaviors, including simple things such as shaking hands, using patients first names and stating the physicians first and last names. Now those kinds of things dont sound too complicated, do they?
To me this is interesting stuff because it gives us a window into how people actually feel when they visit a physician. Nearly four in five respondents said they wanted to shake hands with their physician. I think all of us can identify with that. A firm handshake denotes respect and a certain degree of intimacy. Another finding was that a little more than half of those surveyed wanted to be greeted by their first name. Thats another one we can all grasp. Calling someone by their first name can usually mean the physician seeks a personal connection with the patient. Other findings included 56.4% said they liked their doctors to introduce themselves using their first and last name, saying Hello, Im John Smith rather than, Hello, Im Dr. Smith.
The findings revealed this form of greeting was especially important to black patients, 78.3% of whom preferred first and last name introductions vs. 58% for white patients.
The study also involved evaluations of 123 videotaped new-patient visits at academic primary-care clinics in Chicago and Burlington, Vt. The tapes revealed that 82.9% of physicians shook hands with patients, but that in half of the encounters caught on tape physicians never mentioned the patient by name although the patients chose to introduce themselves.
Forty percent of patients offered additional advice on how physicians should greet patients; 23.2% said the doctor should smile; 19.2% said the doctor should be friendly, personable, polite and respectful; and 16.4% wanted their doctor to be attentive and calm and to make the patient feel like a priority.
The authors of the study concluded that because both patient and physician identification can be established with greetings they might be considered a fundamental component of patient safety.
We all want to be valued, even treasured by the person with whom we are sharing our most intimate secrets. Respect is a two-way street, and unless we as human beings are treated with respect either by a physician or anybody else, it is simply human nature to feel devalued. Nobody should tolerate that.
Its as simple as that.