Comportment and communication patterns among hospitalist physicians: Insight gleaned through observation

Susrutha Kotwal, Haruka Torok, Waseem Khaliq, Regina Landis, Eric Howell, Scott Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives By 2014, there were more than 40,000 hospitalists delivering the majority of inpatient care in US hospitals. No empiric research has characterized hospitalist comportment and communication patterns as they care for patients. Methods The chiefs of hospital medicine at five different hospitals were asked to identify their best hospitalists. These hospitalists were watched during their routine clinical care of patients. An observation tool was developed that focused on elements believed to be associated with excellent comportment and communication. One observer watched the physicians, taking detailed quantitative and qualitative field notes. Results A total of 26 hospitalists were shadowed. The mean age of the physicians was 38 years, and their average experience in hospital medicine was 6 years. The hospitalists were observed for a mean of 5 hours, during which time they saw an average of 7 patients (patient encounters observed N = 181). Physicians spent an average of 11 minutes with each patient. There was large variation in the extent to which desirable behaviors were performed. For example, most physicians (76%) started encounters with an open-ended question, and relatively few (30%) attempted to integrate nonmedical content into conversation with patients. Conclusions This study represents a first step in trying to characterize comportment and communication in hospital medicine. Because hospitalists spend only a small proportion of their clinical time in direct patient care, it is imperative that excellent comportment and communication are clearly defined and established as a goal for every encounter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-501
Number of pages6
JournalSouthern Medical Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 5 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • communication and comportment skills
  • hospitalists
  • patient safety
  • patient-centered care
  • professionalism


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