Seeing Eye to Eye With Your Physician
From job interviews to first dates and conversations with our friends, we know how important eye contact is for making a positive impression. The same goes for doctor’s visits—making meaningful eye contact is a crucial skill for doctors to help show empathy and make patients feel that they understand and care about their needs.
Positive feelings are one thing. But does eye contact make any difference in clinical outcomes for patients?
Rita Gorawara-Bhat, PhD, senior staff scientist in the Section of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, researches the ways both verbal and nonverbal communication between physicians and elderly patients can affect care. In a new study, she and her colleagues watched hundreds of hours of videotapes of doctors interacting with patients and found that eye contact, especially when it’s matched with meaningful verbal communication, does indeed help patients understand what the doctor is telling them and helps them stick to their treatment plans.
Gorawara-Bhat said that nonverbal communication, such as eye contact and touch, is especially important when treating elderly patients.
“There are many difficulties that physicians have in communicating with older patients because of their frailty, hearing and vision difficulties, alongside all the comorbidities that an older patient may come along with at that age,” she said.