Why hospitals should look for docs with social skills

Physicians' social skills often tie in directly to their job performances, according to a piece in Forbes. And rudeness will no longer cut it in the workplace.

"[R]egardless of doctors' technical competence, their ability to deal with patients and influence their behavior will depend more on their personality and attitude than what they learned in medical school," writes Forbes contributor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. Despite this, he writes, the profession has historically rewarded competitiveness and academic knowledge over personal interactions.

There are signs of a cultural shift on the issue, however. For example, the United Kingdom's National Health Service now counts leadership and collaboration skills as key competencies, and in the U.S., patient satisfaction is increasingly important under healthcare reform. 

Chamorro-Premuzic cites a 2010 review of nearly 500 independent studies, which found a positive association between emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) and more compassionate and empathetic patient care, higher-scoring assessments of knowledge, and effective coping with organizational pressures and leadership. The review found a similar correlation between EQ, teamwork and patient-doctor communication, according to the article.

He further cites Kaiser Permanente's replacement of its Colorado executive medical director in the mid-1990s. Under Jack Cochran, clinical leadership became a central part of the provider's agenda and his emphasis on doctors as "healers, leaders and partners," and Colorado became Kaiser's highest-performing branch on quality of care over the next five years.

Rudeness in the workplace hurts not only employee and patient satisfaction but hospital bottom lines as well, according to a 2013 study, which found that nearly half of workers deliberately scaled back their work effort in response to rude behavior, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Despite this, some experts, such as Wen Shen, M.D., an endocrine surgeon at the University of California-San Francisco, warn that prioritizing the hiring of surgeons with good technical and emotional skills could put too much emphasis on experience at the expense of quality outcomes.

To learn more:
- read the Forbes article