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Would Dr. House Even Get into Medical School Today?: How HR will Restrict Physician Hiring

July 14, 2011
Neurology fellow: "Shouldn't we be speaking to the patient before diagnosing?"

House : "Is she a doctor?"

Foreman: "No, but ..."

House: "Everybody lies."

Immunology fellow: "Dr. House doesn't like dealing with patients."

Foreman: "Isn't treating patients why we became doctors?"

House: "No, treating illnesses is why we became doctors. Treating patients is what makes most doctors miserable."

Neurology fellow: "So you're trying to eliminate the humanity from the practice of medicine?"

House: "If we don't talk to them, they can't lie to us, and we can't lie to them. Humanity is overrated."

Certainly, there is something to be said for expertise over patient interaction skills in some situations.  Emergency brain surgery? I’ll sacrifice some bedside manner for top-notch surgical skills.  In most physician-patient interactions, however, empathy, compassion, communication skills and a patient-centered approach are better.  Healthcare is a service industry.  The patient is a consumer.  Basic medical ethics call for engaging the patient in the treatment process.  Research shows that communication is better for patient outcomes as it improves the likelihood of the patient’s faith in, and compliance with, the treatment plan.  (See Physician Empathy, No Longer  Optional).  One of the leading causes of malpractice claims is poor communication. Preventable deaths are often linked to poor communication.  Not surprisingly, there is an increased emphasis on improving communication and a team approach to treating patients.

Now, some medical schools are breaking with House’s traditional view and looking at whether would-be medical students have the people skills to be offered a spot in the program.  These schools examine candidates' social skills and teamwork abilities through a new interview technique.  (Med Schools Test Candidates’ Social Skills)

This is a great place to start, but what about the physicians you are bringing into your organization today?  These are high salary, high responsibility positions.  If the “soft skills” of these physicians impact patient care, legal risk, patient satisfaction and even reimbursement, then what are we doing to assess whether they have the skill set?

It’s great that there is more dialogue recently about the type of physician we need to face today’s challenges.  Now we need progressive and effective approaches to determining which physicians “fit” into your culture and have the skills to help you achieve your goals.

Yes, I know that some specialties are in great demand and not many docs are Marcus Welby.  But we probably can’t handle too many like House, either.

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.