After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Attention Should Be Paid, Because It’s Appreciated

Posted on April 25, 2010
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Our attention was drawn to two stories in the Sunday papers on means of paying attention to others, once you recognize that paying attention is important. For teenagers with electronic devices and lots of friends, that’s a no brainer. For busy doctors, however, paying attention to patients in an effective manner while spending as little time with them as necessary make take some – attention.

Ivey Dejesus in The Patriot-News, covering Central Pennsylvania, writes that, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids from eight to 18 plugged into electronic media spend 53 hours a week “texting, e-mailing, tweeting, posting on Facebook, catching a favorite show on or playing ‘Dungeon Hunter.'”  That amounts to an average of seven hours and 38 minutes a day. With multitasking on their media, it comes to more in terms of content created or controlled.

Dejesus adds that cell phone texting “has become the preferred mode of communication among teens,” according to the Pew Center.

Parents don’t get as upset over their kids’ fixation on electronic media as you might think. That’s because the odds are increased that they at least know where the kids are, or can call them on their cell phones to find out. Some parents buy GPS-type family locator phone plans to help them keep track of  their kids. And some even call them when they’re in school, at a math class for instance, definitely not cool.

When we were growing up, model railroads, chemistry sets, bikes or dolls were the thing. We tended to stay close to home because meeting and dating the opposite sex was sometimes more than a little trying. Then, of course, along came television, and we spent hours glued to the tube.

Having kids in constant touch through texting or other forms of computer communication can presumably be a good thing because it makes forming relationships easier and more conversational, and that’s healthy. Some kids, of course, use unfortunate texting judgment in the photos they share, but educational campaigns are catching up with those misguided practices.

So let the kids be connected; maybe it will translate into a better connected country and society when they grow up.

Doctors should already know the value of paying heed to their patients and how to accomplish that in their brief encounters with them. Many do, but how many of them realize it’s best to sit with a patient rather than stand before them?  Supposedly mannerisms that communicate well are taught in medical schools, but  doctors get too busy to remember what they may feel are pretty subtle distinctions.

Not really so, reports Alan Bavley for the McClatchy newspapers in The Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News. Researchers at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., have found that doctors who sit with their patients get “significantly higher marks for satisfaction,” and actually spend less time with their patients than those who stand while they discuss health issues with them.

Unfortunately, hospital rooms aren’t designed for physician sitting – chairs are often stuffed with belongings or visitors. A doctor may have to sit on the foot of the bed, but he or she probably should. It’s a better communication locale than standing.

When patients were asked to estimate the time a given doctor spent with them, Bavley reports, “those who got a standing visit said three minutes, 44 seconds, while those who got a sitting visit said five minutes, 14 seconds – a significantly longer time.”  Actually, the doctor “spent one minute and 28 seconds with patients when he stood and one minute, four seconds when he sat,” not a statisically significant difference but a fascinating one. (The researcher was outside the rooms with a stopwatch.)

When people feel that attention is being paid to them, they tend to give more credit for the gesture than the time actually spent.  “The doctor took the time to sit and listen,” one said. “He sat down long enough to get all of my questions answered.”

But note that he actually spent less time on average when he was sitting.

To treat others enthusiastically, as kids do with their electronic devices, or caringly as empathetic doctors do when they sit with a patient, is to pay them attention in a manner that’s appreciated in given circumstances. Pay attention to that, folks. – Doug Bedell


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