Physician meditation, communication improve care

Learning "mindful meditation and communication" skills may sound to some doctors like a luxury for which they don't have time, but new research from the University of Rochester confirms it may be well worth the investment for physicians and their patients.

The study, published in Academic Medicine, is a follow-up to a paper the researchers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009. For the initial study, Howard Beckman, M.D., clinical professor of Medicine and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues enrolled 70 physicians in a mindfulness training program that involved eight weekly sessions, followed by 10 monthly sessions. They found that participants were better equipped to handle psychological distress, fend off burnout and improve their well-being. For the follow-up, the team interviewed 20 of the physicians about their experience with the training.

Highlights from their feedback are as follows:

  • 60 percent said the training helped them become more attentive listeners
  • 50 percent said they were more self-aware and less judgmental in conversations at work and home
  • 75 percent found strong benefits in being able to discuss their personal medical experiences with other doctors in the training program in a setting they felt was safe and free of judgment
  • 70 percent placed a high value on the mindfulness course having a well-defined curriculum that designated time and space to pause and reflect

But to truly improve primary care, the researchers suggested training individual physicians in mindfulness doesn't go far enough.

"Programs focused on personal awareness and self-development are only part of the solution," the researchers stated. "Our healthcare delivery systems must implement systematic change at the practice level to create an environment that supports mindful practice, encourages transparent and clear communication among clinicians, staff, patients and families, and reduces professional isolation."

To learn more:
- read the post from the Huffington Post
- check out the press release from the University of Rochester Medical Center
- see the study abstract from Academic Medicine