USA Today column: How doctor-patient communication can reduce lawsuits

My column was published in this morning’s USA Today: How doctors can reduce medical errors, lawsuits.

I discuss the contentious issue of medical malpractice, and explain how doctor-patient communication is key to improving patient safety and reducing lawsuits in the first place: “Doctors also must create and maintain open lines of communication with patients, which is critical to preventing lawsuits in the first place. Doctors have to better explain, and patients better understand, that not all adverse outcomes are due to physician errors. Although the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 seminal report, ‘To Err is Human,’ concluded that medical errors caused up to 100,000 patient deaths a year, 90% of those deaths were attributed to systemwide procedural failures at medical institutions.”

The initial focus of the piece was to examine the emotional impact of lawsuits on doctors, using data from a recent Journal of the American College of Surgeons study, but this was revised during the editing process.

In a few weeks, I’ll post my draft of the column here.

Enjoy the piece.

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  • Fjohnirst name Flowers

    There is a organization called Sorryworks.I was  founded by Jim Wojcieszak.It has helped alot getting doctors to disclose errors to patients and families.His brother was a victim of medical error.
    A little honest comunication and go along way in helping people.

  • Dike Drummond MD

    Hey Kevin … communication between a “consumer” and a “provider” are important in any business … just think of your last visit to a restaurant and the quality of your waiter.

    AND in healthcare … the quality of the doctor – patient communication loop will effect the patient’s health. This has implications for morbidity, mortality, cost and Malpractice Risk and it is all so infuriatingly simple.

    Here are the communication habits of primary care doctors with the lowest malpractice risk (and most likely the best patient outcomes) – from the JAMA study referenced in your article

    - Use more statements of orientation (educating patients about what to expect and the flow of a visit)
    - Laugh and use humor more
    - Tend to use more facilitation (soliciting patients’ opinions, checking understanding, and encouraging patients to talk)

    Talk WITH your patients not TO them
    Tell them what’s going on
    If its funny … LAUGH
    Ask them what they think/feel

    And medical education doesn’t teach that … your parents do.

    My two cents … your thoughts??

    Dike Drummond MD

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