Background: Concern that case presentations at the bedside may make patients uncomfortable has led many residency programs to move presentations to the conference room. We performed a randomized, controlled trial of the effect of these two approaches on patients' perceptions of their care.
Methods: The study patients were adults admitted to the general medical service of a teaching hospital. Four house-staff "firms" (each comprising teams of physicians) were randomly assigned to make their case presentations during morning rounds either at the patient's bedside or in a conference room for one week, to switch to the alternate site for a second week, and to return to the initial site for a third week. To assess patients' perceptions, a questionnaire was administered within 24 hours of admission.
Results: During the three weeks of the study, 95 patients had bedside presentations and 87 patients had conference-room presentations. When the former were compared with the latter, the patients with bedside presentations reported that their doctors spent more time with them on morning rounds (10 vs. 6 minutes, P<0.001). The patients with bedside presentations were also somewhat more likely to report favorable perceptions of their inpatient care (range of adjusted odds ratios, 1.12 to 2.17), although none of the associations were statistically significant. Better-educated patients were less likely to report that physicians used confusing terminology and explained tests and medications inadequately than were patients who had not completed high school.
Conclusions: These data suggest that from the patient's perspective, bedside case presentations are at least as good as conference-room presentations, and perhaps preferable. When physicians make presentations at the bedside of less well educated patients, they should be especially careful to avoid medical jargon and to explain fully their plans for inpatient care.