Using positive comments regarding physicians
By David Edwards, MD, Chief Medical Officer
“This weekend my daughter and her husband lost their baby due to a cord accident. I would like you to forward how much our family appreciated the dedicated professionals who work at that facility. They are among the most compassionate and caring group of individuals I have had the opportunity to be in contact with. From the nurses who constantly were in and out of the room to the doctors who were on duty I felt that my daughter was given the best care available. Thank you for helping our family through an awful weekend and being such outstanding healthcare professionals.” – The physician on duty was Dr. Eric Huish
Physicians fear bad outcomes. The logic is that they lead to lawsuits, professional complaints and potentially peer review. Yet this quote from a grateful family shows the healing power that we as providers have during some of the darkest hours of our patients’ lives. It feels risky to step into these situations. Rather than needing clinical expertise, we need to connect on a different level, as a caring practitioner of the medical arts.
Just as with clinical or surgical skills, this ability to connect comes easier for some folks than others. But just as we are trained with clinical and surgical skills, the ability to “connect” with patients can be taught and improved with practice.
“What’s in it for me?” you might ask. The Harvard study has shown that patients don’t sue physicians who practice medicine poorly more frequently than those who practice good medicine. And payouts or financial judgments are not based so much on negligence but have a higher correlation with disability from the incident.(1,2 )
Two more recent articles have shown that physicians who have higher patient satisfaction and a low complaint rate are sued less frequently.(3,4 )
When bad things happen, patients want to know why, they want to hear from someone that they are sorry this is happened to them (which is different from that person taking responsibility for making a mistake or causing that event) or they want to hear what is being done to keep this from happening to someone else. Paradoxically, when providers withdraw and don't communicate as often, these needs of the patients are not met, increasing the risk of lawsuits.
A single example does not prove a point but you must agree with me that Dr. Huish’s caring and communication not only decreased his risk for liability, it helped start the healing process for this family.
Please contact either me or Dave Sanders if you have any desire to improve your skills in these areas.
1. Localio AR, Lawthers AG, Brennan TA, et al. Relation between malpractice claims and adverse events due to negligence. Results of the Harvard Medical Practice Study III. N Engl J Med. 1991;325:245-251.
2. Brennan TA, Sox CM, Burstin HR. Relation between negligent adverse events and the outcomes of medicalmalpractice litigation. NEJM. 1996;335:1963-1967.
3. Hickson GB, Federspiel CF, Pichert JW, et al. Patient complaints and malpractice risk. JAMA. 2002;287:2951-2957.
4. Stelfox HT, Gandhi TK, Orav EJ, Gustafson ML. The relation of patient satisfaction with complaints against physicians and malpractice lawsuits. Am J Med. 2005;108:1126-1133.