Patient rudeness shown to significantly increase physician error

On Behalf of | Feb 10, 2017 | Doctor Errors

A recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics has pinpointed a common theme shared among the stories of doctors accused of committing medical errors. Of the physicians interviewed, approximately 40 percent attributed their lapses in judgment to emotional responses to patient rudeness.

More than 250,000 patient deaths are thought to result from medical errors caused by these lapses in judgment each year. This easily causes doctor negligence to assume third place as one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

For the purpose of this study, lead researchers had a goal of examining the relationship between doctors and their patients. To do so, they sampled 39 Israeli neonatal intensive care unit teams.

In an effort to replicate what it would be like in a real NICU setting, a doctor and two nurses simulated rendering emergency medical care to a infant mannequin using five distinct scenarios. While this was going on, an actor, intended to serve the role as an upset and demanding parent, held his ground.

As the second component of their study, researchers then performed 11 different assessments aimed gaining insight into how well they would perform their regular duties after having been subjected to such treatment. In doing so, researchers evaluated such things as accuracy of diagnoses and overall quality of care.

They found that medical personnel who experienced poor treatment as they cared for the ailing infants in all five scenarios performed remarkably worse than their counterparts not subjected to such treatment. They determined this suggests that indeed an unruly patient can have an significant impact on physician error.

To address these deficiencies, researchers had team members play anger and aggression reduction computer games while others carried out journaling activities recounting their day. Ultimately, the cognitive behavior intervention approaches they crafted proved to significantly reduce the ill effects suffered by doctors.

Other measures were attempted but showed much less promise, including asking doctors to reflect on the scenario from the parent’s perspective. Although reduced, team members still seemed to be affected by the parent’s rude behavior at the end of the day.

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to doctor’s error, a New Mexico medical malpractice attorney can advise as to your rights in filing a claim.

Source:, “Patient Rudeness Worsens Medical Care, but CBT Can Help,” Zawn Villines, Jan. 24, 2017


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