Study finds disruptive docs in the OR aren’t just distracting, but dangerous

Published on Feb 27, 2017 at 8:58 pm in Medical Malpractice.

While the reality of having to undergo surgery is enough to make even the most stoic patient experience considerable unease, things can become that much more difficult when they are have to deal with a surgeon who is rude, dismissive or otherwise disrespectful. In fact, the experience might be so bad that it forces the patient or their family members to complain to hospital administration.

Interestingly enough, a recent study by researchers from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and six other academic health systems reveals that hospital administrators might want to be a bit more proactive about these types of complaints.

The study, published in JAMA Surgery earlier this month, saw researchers examine data on 32,000 adult patients and 800 surgeons from seven medical centers that participated in the 2011-13 National Surgical Quality Improvement Program.

Somewhat shockingly, the researchers found that surgical patients treated by disruptive or rude physicians had 14 percent more complications in the 30 days after their procedure — pneumonia, infections, stroke, sepsis, etc. — than their counterparts who underwent surgery at the hands of well-behaved surgeons.

“Even though there was only a 14 percent difference in adverse outcomes between patients cared for by the most respectful and least respectful surgeons, if you take those numbers and distribute them across the United States where 27 million surgical procedures are performed each year, that could represent more than 350,000 surgical site infections, urinary tract infections, sepsis,” said one of the study authors. 

Curiously, the study found that the behavior of disruptive surgeons also had an adverse effect on surgical team members, including nurses and physicians, making it much more difficult for them to perform their work and, by extension, elevating the patient safety risk.

For example, a fellow physician or surgical nurse who has previously been subjected to harsh verbal reprimands from a surgeon might be hesitant to speak up in the operating room.

The good news is that the researchers found that hospital programs designed to address these types of complaints about rude or disrespectful surgeons have proven remarkably effective.

Indeed, 80 percent of the 1,600 physicians/surgeons who were identified by VUMC’s Patient Advocacy Reporting System and who responded favorably to interventions went on to be hit with both fewer complaints and malpractice claims.

Here’s hoping hospitals and surgical centers take note of this report …

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