Study Finds Patients Want A Name and a Handshake
> 6/12/2007 2:25:09 PM

There are no second chances at first impressions, and according to new research the vast majority of patients prefer their physicians to greet them by name and shake their hand. However, although most doctors do greet their patients with a hand shake, many donít greet them by name.

Coordinator, Gregory Makol, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said in a phone interview with Reuters:

"Greetings are just a small slice of the visit, but they can have a lasting impact. It's the first impression that can really set the tone for the rest of the encounter and for the doctor-patient relationship."

In 2004 and 2005 the researchers conducted surveys with 415 U.S adults. During the surveys they asked the participants what type of initial greetings they felt appropriate from their doctor. In addition, videotaped interactions were recorded to show how doctors were greeting their patients in both Chicago and Burlington, VT.

According to the findings, 78 percent of patients wanted a doctor to greet them with a hand shake, while 18 percent did not. In the videotaped interaction, just over 80 percent of the doctors did greet their patients with a handshake, however only about half of them managed to refer to their patient by either their first or last name.

Makol warned that aside from the fact that itís good manners to greet patients by name, one of the leading causes of medical mistakes is doctors inadvertently mixing patients up. And, certainly, that is a mistake that no doctor wants to make.

Friendlier greetings should also help doctors build trust with clients, something that is immeasurably important. Primary-care doctors, who are more and more treating not only physical ailments, but also providing front-line care on mental health issues, gain a great deal by establishing a strong relationship from the outset. When clients feel comfortable they will be more likely to discuss their problems openly, and relay important information, even if it is of a delicate nature.

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