A physician skilled in performance art offers medical professionals his techniques and strategies to better connect with their patients in this well-crafted, engaging and informative book.

Author Bob Baker has performed professionally for years as a magician and ventriloquist, beginning from the time he was looking for extra money for medical school. In the nearly 35 years that followed, while working as an internist and gastroenterologist on Long Island, Baker found that he developed better communication with patients by incorporating his performance skills. Yes, acting.

Baker uses what he deems the same approach as Sir Lawrence Olivier (“acting from the outside in”), to layer “practical acting techniques on top of our authentic behavior to create a better experience for both patients and us.” The techniques are many, but include conscious listening while observing, moving and responding in a fully engaged manner, and learning how to give patients the proper attention despite having to make an excessive number of notations (for insurance reasons) on the computer. Even when feeling down, he notes, acting “as if”—meaning as if you were fine—can actually change your mood and performance. “If you act as your best doctor self in every way, you will be your best doctor self.

This is a unique approach, and the book is highly readable, friendly in style, and buzzes with energy. The descriptions are easy to understand and the chapters flow fluidly, each one ending with a succinct summary of the chapter details. When appropriate, Baker also gives credit to others who have helped him to develop a positive patient encounter. As a bonus at book’s end, he concisely highlights—chapter by chapter–all the pertinent details so that readers can flip there for a quick reference down the road.

In short, in this era of managed care, which overshadows so much of physicians’ time and responsibilities, Baker offers a valuable and insightful guide geared to satisfying both doctor and patient.”

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Kirkus Reviews

Baker (Successful Surgery, 1996) urges physicians and other medical professionals to up their patient-interaction games.

The author leverages his unique background as both a medical doctor and ventriloquist/magician to craft a book with an intriguing message: that meeting with a patient is “a performance.”

At first glance, his notion to “bring techniques from the stage into the practice of medicine” may seem quirky, but his goal of increasing patient and practitioner satisfaction is quite serious.

Baker begins with an overview of how patient care has changed in recent years, including the fact that a majority of today’s patients choose doctors based on online reviews. Due to health insurance constraints, he says, the face-to-face patient encounter is “the only thing” that medical staff “can directly control.” He believes that this interaction should engage the patient as much as possible, like a performance does, so that the healing process can effectively begin.

Early on, Baker wisely raises hypothetical objections to his own premise (“After all, isn’t a doctor the opposite of a performer?…A doctor is genuine, caring, and empathic—certainly not a performer, certainly not a fake!”), addressing each one with a lighthearted informality that should charm practitioners into giving his ideas a fair hearing.

He then proceeds to share specific techniques and strategies for executing a great “performance,” including “Listening and Observing,” “Responding in the Moment,” and “Staying in Character.” He describes each specific technique, illustrating them with relevant examples from his own experience and input from experts at acting.

Baker makes sure not only to address interactions with patients, but also the necessary preparations before these encounters as well as required follow-up. A final section helpfully discusses how to implement the author’s ideas, sensitively addresses what could go wrong, and offers supporting statements from other physicians.

Enlightening appendices include one doctor’s performance “script,” a useful overview of body language, and commentary on how to “deal with patients who make us angry.”

 A novel approach that should enlighten and reinvigorate medical professionals.

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