Baker (Successful Surgery, 1996) urges physicians and other medical professionals to up their patient-interaction games.
The author leverages his unique background as both a medical doctor and ventriloquist/magician to craft a book with an intriguing message: that meeting with a patient is “a performance.” At first glance, his notion to “bring techniques from the stage into the practice of medicine” may seem quirky, but his goal of increasing patient and practitioner satisfaction is quite serious. Baker begins with an overview of how patient care has changed in recent years, including the fact that a majority of today’s patients choose doctors based on online reviews. Due to health insurance constraints, he says, the face-to-face patient encounter is “the only thing” that medical staff “can directly control.” He believes that this interaction should engage the patient as much as possible, like a performance does, so that the healing process can effectively begin. Early on, Baker wisely raises hypothetical objections to his own premise (“After all, isn’t a doctor the opposite of a performer?...A doctor is genuine, caring, and empathic—certainly not a performer, certainly not a fake!”), addressing each one with a lighthearted informality that should charm practitioners into giving his ideas a fair hearing. He then proceeds to share specific techniques and strategies for executing a great “performance,” including “Listening and Observing,” “Responding in the Moment,” and “Staying in Character.” He describes each specific technique, illustrating them with relevant examples from his own experience and input from experts at acting. Baker makes sure not only to address interactions with patients, but also the necessary preparations before these encounters as well as required follow-up. A final section helpfully discusses how to implement the author’s ideas, sensitively addresses what could go wrong, and offers supporting statements from other physicians. Enlightening appendices include one doctor’s performance “script,” a useful overview of body language, and commentary on how to “deal with patients who make us angry.”
A novel approach that should enlighten and reinvigorate medical professionals.