Editor's Corner

Telling a patient that she's so obese no man would want her--or suggesting that another should shoot herself--is not diplomatic, to say the least. Some would say that New Hampshire's Dr. Terry Bennett's comments were simply cruel, so much so that he deserves a formal reprimand from his peers (see story below). Apparently, a judge disagrees. Regardless, the 68-year old physician is unlikely to change. You can't teach an old MD new tricks.

Fortunately, however, most younger doctors are far more educable, and for that matter, possessed far better social skills. Rather than trying to convert irredeemable codgers like Bennett, the medical community should focus on helping up-and-coming doctors to function effectively in today's brutally challenging healthcare business environment. And that goes well beyond making sure doctors don't insult their patients--it involves helping MDs work effectively within the business culture of your organization.

Administrators should make sure physicians feel they can share their professional concerns; that MDs not only get information about strategic plans for their facility, but also know how to respond; that they can communicate their proposals and ideas effectively; and much more. Such two-way communication can help retain high admitting doctors and convert low admitters to higher-admitting patterns, according to research by Press Ganey, a consultancy focused on healthcare performance improvement.

Without a doubt, patient satisfaction--and freedom from egregious personal attacks--are always going to be important to successful healthcare delivery. But for facilities that want to keep progressing, improving physicians' business communication skills may be the next step forward.

- Anne