Doctors are obsessed with bedside manner.
This made sense when the exchange between a patient and doctor occurred at the bedside. The bedside was the context of care. When you were sick, you were confined to bed. You saw the doctor when you were sick. In bed, typically.
When a doctor was empathetic, we said he had good bedside manner. This was how we ranked doctors before Press-Ganey.
And you can’t attend a major medical convention without finding a translational medicine talk carrying the subtitle, ‘from bench to bedside.’
But perhaps it’s time to see patients beyond the bedside.
The context of care has evolved. Engagement with the health care system is beginning to occur along a continuum that’s getting closer to real-time. We’re connecting before confinement. The format of connection is moving beyond the bedside and into new forms of media. And patients are even looking after their health on their own terms.
But we love the bedside. And given the perpetuation of the reference it’s where we like to imagine our patients. It’s comfortable and folksy. Nostalgia raises dangerously powerful emotions in medicine.
We won’t be able to shake the term until those propagating the term finally move on. And for what it’s worth, the Wikipedia page on bedside manner is empty.
Image is modified from the National Library of Medicine.