Given the choice, most patients would prefer not to be treated by a rude, intimidating or brash surgeon. A new study suggests there's a good reason why: The more complaints a surgeon receives, the greater the risk of that surgeon's patients developing post-operative complications.
A patient whose surgeon has a significant amount of unsolicited patient feedback in the 24 months prior to their operation are at increased risk of surgical and medical complications, as well as even more dire outcomes, according to a study published in JAMA Surgery. This might explain why surgeons with the least favorable reviews often find themselves the most frequent targets of medical malpractice lawsuits.
Among the 32,125 patients (13,230 men, 18,895 women) studied, more than 3,500 mdash; nearly 11% mdash; experienced a surgical complication (5.5%), including surgical site infections and wound disruptions, or a medical complication (7.5%), such as stroke, a cardiovascular condition or a pulmonary condition. Complications were 13.9% more likely for patients whose surgeon was in the highest quartile of unsolicited patient observations compared with patients whose surgeon was in the lowest quartile.
The study cited several examples of patients describing surgeons' behaviors as intimidating, deterring communication or rude to fellow clinicians, including:
- "I asked Dr. Y how long he thought the operation would take. He said, 'Look, your wife will die without this procedure. If you want to ask questions instead of allowing me to do my job, I can just go home and not do it.'"
- "Dr. X rushed us through the appointment so quickly; she didn't even explain why she was recommending this procedure over other treatment approaches."
- "I witnessed a tense exchange between Dr. Z and a nurse. It was difficult to watch someone try to humiliate another person like that. I was embarrassed and it made me feel vulnerable."
The authors suggest focusing on surgeons' ability to communicate respectfully and effectively with patients and other medical professionals. Doing so will not only promote patient safety, they say, but also address the risk of malpractice claims.