Bendapudi research prescribes 'Dr. Ideal'

Everyday doctors examine and try to remedy a cough, the sniffles or a boiling hot fever, but a Mayo Clinic study shows while they go about their duty, their bedside manner is under examination by the patient.

A study of Mayo Clinic patients identified seven behaviors necessary to prescribe the "ideal" physician to provide a patient-centered approach, Neeli Bendapudi, associate professor of marketing and co-author of the study, said. The researchers analyzed the transcripts and identified seven behaviors to describe the ideal doctor as confident, empathetic, humane, personal, forthright, respectful and thorough.

Published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the article was based on interviews with patients who detailed their best and worst experiences with a physician at the clinic.

Neeli BendapudiPatients have become detectives and look for little clues about the doctor’s behavior to conclude whether the physician is genuinely interested in them, Bendapudi said. Consider this simple act: doctors that sat and talked with the patient, instead of standing when conducting the patient interview, were perceived to have spent more time with the patient, she said.

The study found that the doctor-patient relationship could have far reaching effects on the patient’s recovery, compliance with instructions and emotional responses during the exam.

The researchers suggested new and practicing physicians should learn interpersonal communication skills to help treat the patient in a whole new way and foster a better relationship with them. Doing so could boost the patient’s psychological well-being, which turns out to be the right thing for their physical well-being, Bendapudi said.

“Physicians are concerned about getting the best health outcomes for their patients and often see the health outcome and customer/patient satisfaction as antithetical objectives,” Bendapudi said. “When physicians use the seven behaviors, patients begin to trust them more, open up to them more and be more likely to comply with the doctor’s orders.”

In the past, physicians often treated the patient as the disease they encountered, Bendapudi said, but the new thinking encourages doctors to integrate a holistic vision of the patient and their life.

“We used to have a culture where doctors knew best and there was little questioning of the physician’s advice,” she said. “A customer-centric culture which encourages us to be more savvy in consuming any service is spilling over to medical care as well.”

Bendapudi conducted the study along with Leonard Berry, professor of marketing and Janet Turner Parish, assistant professor of marketing, both from the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, Dr. Keith Frey of Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and Dr. William Rayburn of Texas A&M University Health Science Center and Scott & White Clinic.

Most of these negative incidents had to do with violations of these behaviors where a doctor is perceived as brooking no questions, being authoritarian or unreliable, Bendapudi said. Patients indicated that they could sense when the doctor didn’t focus solely on them. Among the worst experiences for the patients were when they noticed that the doctor rushed an examination or seemed preoccupied.