Measuring Excellent Comportment among Hospitalists


The hospitalist’s performance is among the major determinants of a patient’s hospital experience. But what are the elements of a successful interaction? The authors of an article published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine set out to establish metrics to answer—and measure the answer—to that question, to assess hospitalists’ behaviors, and to establish norms and expectations.

“This study represents a first step to specifically characterize comportment and communication in hospital medicine,” the authors write.

Patient satisfaction surveys, they state, have some shortcomings in providing useful answers to that question.

“First, the attribution to specific providers is questionable,” the authors write. “Second, recall about the provider by the patients may be poor because surveys are sent to patients days after they return home. Third, the patients’ recovery and health outcomes are likely to influence their assessment of the doctor. Finally, feedback is known to be most valuable and transformative when it is specific and given in real time.”

Researchers asked the chiefs of hospital medicine divisions at five hospitals to identify their “most clinically excellent” hospitalists. Each hospitalist was observed during a routine clinical shift, and behaviors were recorded that were believed to be associated with excellent comportment and communication using the hospital medicine comportment and communication tool (HMCCOT), the final version of which has 23 variables. The physicians’ HMCCOT scores were associated with their patient satisfaction survey scores, suggesting that improved comportment might translate into enhanced patient satisfaction.

The results showed extensive variability in comportment and communication at the bedside. One variable that stood out to the researchers was that teach-back was employed in only 13% of the encounters.

“Previous studies have shown that teach-back corroborates patient comprehension and can be used to engage patients (and caregivers) in realistic goal setting and optimal health service utilization,” the researchers write. “Further, patients who clearly understand their post-discharge plan are 30% less likely to be readmitted or visit the emergency department. The data for our group have helped us to see areas of strengths, such as hand washing, where we are above compliance rates across hospitals in the United States, as well as those matters that represent opportunities for improvement such as connecting more deeply with our patients.”

The researchers call for future studies to determine whether hospitalists can improve feedback from this tool and whether enhancing comportment and communication can improve both patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.


  1. Kotwal S, Khaliq W, Landis R, Wright S. Developing a comportment and communication tool for use in hospital medicine [published online ahead of print August 13, 2016]. J Hosp Med. doi:10.1002/jhm.2647.

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