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October 19, 2017

The secret to higher inpatient satisfaction: 'BATHE'

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Jan. 23, 2020.

When providers spent a few minutes asking hospital patients about their overall wellbeing—in addition to routine questions about medical symptoms—patients reported significantly higher satisfaction scores, according to a new study published in Family Medicine.

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Study details

For the study, researchers from the University of Virginia Health System (UVA) randomly selected 25 UVA Family Medicine inpatients to receive standard care or a brief psychosocial intervention called BATHE (Background, Affect, Trouble, Handling, and Empathy). According to the researchers, BATHE empowers providers to ask patients about any problems that might be bothering them, such as psychological or life issues, and respond with empathy and encouragement. However, while commonly deployed in outpatient settings, the intervention hasn't been tested in inpatient settings, Healthcare Finance News reports. 

The researchers conducted the study from February to March 2015 and from February to March 2016.

Key findings

The researchers found that:

  • Patients in the hospital who had a BATHE conversation every day of their stay were more likely to rate their care as excellent, awarding their physicians an average score of 4.77 out of 5 compared to 4 out of 5 for those receiving standard care;
  • Family medicine doctors said using BATHE did not add a significant amount of time to their visits with patients, but rather helped them focus their conversations; and
  • Patients who received BATHE were less likely to need more attention from doctors and nurses because of their anxiety.

Further, the researchers found that BATHE and non-BATHE patients similarly reported no meaningful difference in the amount of time they spent with their doctors, indicating that the improvement in satisfaction did not stem from longer appointments. Rather, patients said their satisfaction with care improved because they felt that their physician "showed a genuine interest in [them] as [people]."

Claudia Allen—lead author on the study, clinical psychologist, and an associate professor at UVA—said, "The beauty of the intervention is that it doesn't ask doctors to do anything radically different or add something totally extra," adding, "It just tweaks what they're already doing to make it significantly more effective" (Shute, Health Leaders Media, 10/16; Lagasse, Healthcare Finance News, 10/16).

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