Patients School Doctors in Manners
Most Patients Want Doctors to Shake Their Hands and Introduce Themselves
June 12, 2007 -- When it comes to the doctor-patient relationship, patients
have some pretty specific ideas about how they want their doctors to greet them
when they first meet.
A new study shows that most patients want their doctors to shake their
hands, greet them by name, and introduce themselves using their first and last
The researchers, who work in Chicago at Northwestern University's medical
school, also recommend that doctors explain their role, such as telling the
patient, "I'm Janet Jones, a resident working with Dr. Franklin."
After all, "greetings create a first impression that may extend far
beyond what is conventionally seen as 'bedside manner,'" write Gregory
Makoul, PhD, and colleagues in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
When Patient Meets Doctor
Makoul's team interviewed 415 U.S. adults by telephone about how they want
their doctors to greet them.
Patients were 18-88 years old (average age: 47). Most were white women.
The patients answered these questions:
- How would you want doctors to greet you the first time you meet?
- Would you want them to shake your hand?
- Would you want them to use your first name only, your last name, or
- Should doctors introduce themselves using their first name only, their last
name, or both?
- Is there anything else a doctor should do when meeting you for the first
The researchers also videotaped 123 greetings between doctors and new
Most patients -- 78% -- said they wanted their doctor to shake their
Half said they want their doctor to greet them by their first name. Nearly a
quarter said they wanted to be greeted by their first and last name.
Another 17% said they only wanted their last name used (for instance,
calling them "Ms. Smith"). African-American patients were particularly
likely to express that preference.
The patients also had specific ideas about how they wanted their new doctor
to introduce himself or herself.
More than half of patients -- 56% -- said they wanted their doctor to
introduce themselves using their first and last name. Thirty-two
percent said they wanted their doctors just to use their last name.
Relatively few -- 7% -- said they wanted their doctor just to use his or her
first name; the rest expressed no preference.
Less than half of the patients answered the question about other things
their doctor should do when they first meet. Their top requests were for
doctors to do the following:
- Be friendly, personable, polite, respectful, calm, and attentive
- Make the patient feel like a priority
- Make eye contact with them
In most of the videos -- 82% -- doctors and patients shook hands. But in
half of the videotaped doctor-patient meetings, half of the doctors never
mentioned the patient's name at all.