Good grades are important to have if you're pursuing a career in the medical field, but there is more to being a medical professional than having good grades. Bedside manners are an essential part of patient care and can be challenging to adapt to each patient’s unique needs. The book “The Fifteen Minute Hour” proposes solutions to this conundrum by discussing the art of steering conversations toward the patient. By doing so, a mere few minutes of dialogue can carry the weight and depth of an entire hour. This compelling idea shows how the smallest details make the biggest impact in patient care.
Using the BATHE method, physicians can perform a simple psychological assessment in addition to their physical assessment. BATHE stands for background, affect, trouble, handling, and empathy.
Asking patients about what has been happening in their life could help better assess their physical symptoms (elaborated on in the Trouble paragraph). Additionally, it allows an opportunity to establish a personal connection despite the limited number of meetings per year.
Given that a patient opens up about their current life events, one can move on to asking the patient how they feel about their life events. Asking this can allow the patient to elaborate more on their life and lifestyle, which can help better understand the patient’s overall health and wellbeing.
This next step involves asking the patient what troubles them the most. By gaining insight into their stressors, one can better assess the best course of treatment. For example, a patient may inadvertently reveal that they experience certain physical symptoms when they are under stress. This suggests that stress could be exacerbating or even causing the patient’s symptoms. In this scenario, stress relieving activities (i.e. yoga, exercise, etc.) may be more helpful than medication alone.
The next step is asking the patient how they are handling their situation, given that there is one. Patients have different coping styles, and some may resort to harmful habits. It is crucial to encourage positive strategies, as this can promote a healthier lifestyle in the long term.
The last step is empathy. Providing empathy is arguably one of the most important steps, as it makes the patient feel seen and heard. This could be achieved through sentences such as “That must be very hard” or “That must be very difficult for you.”
Every patient wants to be valued and understood, but health care professionals (such as doctors and nurses) have limited time to care for their many patients each day. This approach optimizes this time: it allows the patient to talk more about themselves while giving professionals an opportunity to evaluate the patient more accurately. It facilitates a personal connection and a better treatment plan. The BATHE method is an effective and versatile method that can elevate the standard of patient care.