New York—An interview protocol used in the preanesthesia clinic aimed at addressing psychological stress associated with surgery improved patient satisfaction substantially, according to a new study.

The method is known as BATHE: Background, Affect, Trouble, Handling and Empathy. Samuel DeMaria Jr., MD, an instructor in anesthesiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, said that his group came to think of the final part as Explain, as well. Dr. DeMaria, whose group presented its findings at the 2010 PostGraduate Assembly in Anesthesiology (abstract P-9082), called BATHE “a way of ensuring that the practitioner was meeting the psychological needs of the patient, so that they felt connected to their clinician.”

Dr. DeMaria and colleagues had taught five senior anesthesia residents the method. They interviewed 50 patients using BATHE and 50 without using the protocol. Half of the patients were scheduled for cardiac surgery, the rest for general surgical procedures.All patients responded to a survey to assess their interactions in Mount Sinai’s preanesthetic clinic. As expected, patients in the BATHE group were more likely to be asked questions about their mood, feelings about the impending surgery and how they had been handling such concerns.

Scores for patient satisfaction, based on survey responses, were somewhat higher in the BATHE group than in patients interviewed without the method (P<0.05). Use of the BATHE method was significantly related to satisfaction (r=0.40; P<0.01). A number of individual satisfaction survey questions also revealed improvements when employing the BATHE method. Patients in the BATHE group rated the friendliness and courtesy of their physician higher, and said their clinician showed greater concern for their worries (P=0.01 for both). Interestingly, BATHE patients also were more satisfied with the amount of time the doctor spent with them, although there were no actual differences in time spent between the two groups.

Still, she said, the method might help improve patient satisfaction in this setting. “The most important questions may be, ‘what questions do you have, and how can I help?’”