A five-minute intervention, BATHE technique, improved inpatient satisfaction


Family medicine doctors from University Of Virginia School Of Medicine found an effective way, BATHE technique, to improve inpatient satisfaction. They found that a daily five-minute conversation which focused on hospitalized patients “as people” potentially improved their satisfaction with their medical care.

According to the study conducted at the University of Virginia Health System, talking with patients about their overall well-being and medical symptoms could significantly improve patient satisfaction. Claudia Allen, UVA associate professor regularly teaches a brief psychosocial intervention called BATHE to Family Medicine doctors in training.

"BATHE includes entry and an exit script. You can spend three minutes doing it, or you can spend an hour doing it." This technique could be adjusted based on the time duration a care provider could provide.

BATHE stands for Background, Affect, Trouble, Handling, and Empathy. Patients often share psychological or life problems as well as medical symptoms. BATHE was designed so that the doctors could address the psychosocial issues briefly and effectively. Doctors using BATHE encourage patients to talk about anything that is bothering them, and then doctors respond with empathy and encouragement.

"The beauty of the intervention is that it doesn't ask doctors to do anything radically different or add something extra. It just tweaks what they're already doing to make it significantly more effective."

He said that the BATHE technique could benefit the outpatient clinics worldwide however it was not tested with inpatients. The technique also helped the distressed patients in the UVA Emergency Department. Thus the researchers decided to examine the effectiveness of the technique with Family Medicine inpatients at UVA Medical Center.

In the study, 25 UVA Family Medicine inpatients were randomly chosen to receive either BATHE or standard care. The technique focused on the treatment plans and the recovery from the disease. The BATHE technique didn't add significantly to the time they spent with patients while it better focused their conversations with the patients.  

Patients receiving BATHE gave their doctors an average score of 4.77 compared with an average score of 4.0 for patients receiving standard care, which is a statistically significant difference.  Although a higher score, there was no patient satisfaction as the BATHE patients had lengthier visits with their doctors. However, the patients were satisfied with the perceptions that their physician "showed a genuine interest in me as a person."

The BATHE technique might save time as the patients receiving this technique did not require extra attention from the doctors or nurses for their anxiety. In future, the researchers are hoping to use this technique on UVA inpatient units and also improving the medical outcomes.