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A doctor has a discussion with a smiling patient.

Connecting With Your Patients

In this time of increased depression and isolation resulting from the pandemic, this question may be more important than ever to you and your patients by initiating a simple sign of much needed compassion. The BATHE technique gives you the tools.

“What’s going on in your life?” An innocuous question you may have used in many circumstances, sometimes “off the cuff” or rhetorically. In this time of increased depression and isolation resulting from the pandemic, this question may be more important than ever to you and your patients by initiating a simple sign of much needed compassion.

This question is only one part of the BATHE technique which can be used to screen for anxiety and depression. In addition, using the BATHE conversational technique compliments your SOAP (subjective objective, assessment and plan) notes to assist you in better connecting with your patients in a non-confrontational method.

The BATHE Technique

The BATHE technique has been around since 1993 with the release of "The Fifteen Minute Hour: Efficient and Effective Patient-Centered Consultation Skills” by M.R. Stuart PhD and L.A. Lieberman, MD, MHP. 

BATHE is an acronym for:

  • Background
  • Affect
  • Trouble
  • Handling
  • Empathy

Can this technique help you better connect with your patients? Shared decision-making is giving your patient a voice in their healthcare to recognize and discuss the patient’s values and preferences, so that their healthcare fits in with their priorities. This BATHE technique seems to fit in well with the shared decision-making technique.

Like shared decision-making, which has been recognized as enhancing the quality of care, better aligning expectations and better managing costs while improving patient satisfaction, the outcomes using the BATHE technique may lend towards a better understanding of what is going on in your patient’s life, how those events are affecting them (whether it is affecting them physically or psychologically); how they are handling it and giving them a healthy dose of human compassion. 

Four Simple Questions

The technique is four simple questions followed by a simple empathic response which illustrates you are listening and recognizing their situation.

  • “What’s going on in your life?”
  • “How do you feel about that?”
  • “What troubles you the most about that?”
  • “How are you handling that?”
  • “That must be difficult, scary, frustrating, etc.”  (the compassion part)

Learn more about the BATHE technique and how to use it in your practice.

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