Most New Yorkers can likely recall visiting a doctor with a bad bedside manner. Whether the doctor was simply uncommunicative or explicitly rude, a poor bedside manner can leave a bad taste in a patient’s mouth. Recent research has also uncovered a link between a bad bedside manner and medical malpractice lawsuits. Doctors with poor communication skills are much likelier to be sued. Here’s what to know about communication and medical malpractice.
Link between bad bedside manner and medical malpractice lawsuits
The New York Times investigated the possible link between poor communication skills and medical malpractice lawsuits. Investigators found that doctors who had poor communication skills were much likelier to be sued for malpractice than those who were judged to be compassionate and caring. Those who had never faced malpractice lawsuits were judged by patients to be caring, willing to communicate, and accessible.
Failure to communicate
While the link is notable, it does not necessarily mean that a doctor with poor communication skills is guilty of malpractice. However, failing to properly communicate with patients about their care could lead doctors to make critical errors leading to severe harm that could have been avoided with good communication. Doctors who fail to communicate with patients might also fail to obtain informed consent, which is a medical error that could lead to litigation. They might also fail to learn important facts about their patient’s medical history and prescribe medications that could cause serious allergic reactions or dangerous interactions with other medications the patient is already taking.
Doctors should take time to speak with patients and listen to their concerns. This helps them to identify symptoms and include various conditions in differential diagnoses. Listening to patients and counseling them on the potential risks of different procedures helps patients make informed decisions about their medical care and could lead to better health outcomes.