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Psychosocial Intervention May Boost Hospitalization Satisfaction

MONDAY, Oct. 23, 2017 -- A brief psychosocial intervention in which physicians ask inpatients about their current situation and respond empathetically appears to improve the hospitalization experience, according to a study published in the October issue of Family Medicine.

Emma J. Pace, M.D., from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and colleagues randomized 25 patients admitted to the inpatient service to usual care or the BATHE (Background, Affect, Trouble, Handling, and Empathy) brief psychosocial intervention. BATHE consists of four questions that elicit descriptions of the patient's current medical or nonmedical situation. The physician is instructed to respond with a brief empathetic statement but is not expected to solve issues raised. Estimates of the time needed for the intervention range from one to two minutes to less than five minutes. Patients in the BATHE group received the intervention daily for five days or until discharge.

The researchers found that daily administration of BATHE had strong effects on patients' likelihood of endorsing their medical care as "excellent." However, BATHE did not improve satisfaction by making patients feel more respected, informed, or attended to. Instead, effects on satisfaction were mediated by patients' perception that their physician showed "a genuine interest in me as a person."

"Our study suggests that patients are more satisfied with their hospitalization experience when physicians take a daily moment to check in with the patient 'as a person' and not just as a medical patient. The brevity of the BATHE intervention indicates that this check-in need not be lengthy or overly burdensome for the already busy inpatient physician," write the authors.

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Posted: October 2017