A recent study of key factors in malpractice lawsuits and peer review papers and research by physicians presents an interesting challenge and opportunity. On the one hand, the results further strengthen previous findings: What physicians say to patients – and how they say it – really does matter in whether patients decide to press malpractice charges, and how those cases proceed.
For many physicians I know, that’s not necessarily earth-shattering news. The rub is where to start. “Good patient communications” is a pretty broad topic, particularly given the wide spectrum of patient personalities, perspectives and expectations. And the fact that most physicians are feeling enormous time pressure in their practices already makes asking them to focus on being careful about what they say to patients can seem pretty unrealistic.
To be clear, I am not a physician. I’ve spent the past 30 years working with healthcare administrators, physicians, risk managers, and various other “vendor types” on the business side of healthcare.
I respect and admire what physicians do in today’s challenging healthcare environment. I have been there many times when a client physician has faced the highly traumatic experience of dealing with a malpractice allegation. On the claims side, over the years I’ve seen many cases that confirmed anecdotally what this research is suggesting. Many times I’ve wished there were a more effective way to help doctors hone a few key communications secrets that can save major headaches in the event of a malpractice claim.
So, what’s the opportunity? I believe research becomes powerful when we can simplify the insights suggested by the data and create nuggets of applied knowledge that focus on highest impact activities first. The nuggets should be short, memorable, and easy to implement.
With that in mind, the company that conducted the research, Astute Doctor, recently developed a list of the top ten things doctors should never say to patients. A slideshow of the ten points, as published recently in Physician’s Practice is available by clicking here.
We’ve also created a one-page summary version if you’re more of a list person. Please click here to download.
Far from watering down the research, this approach seems to me to be a better fit for physicians’ busy lifestyles. Research and experience-based, these simple concepts can perhaps spark a thought or help turn a conversation a slightly different way during your busy days working with your patients
I welcome your comments. Let me know if these ideas resonate, or if you have other issues come up frequently in your practice that aren’t on our list.