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Patient rudeness may cause medical errors

Each year, approximately 250,000 patient deaths are caused by medical errors. A large number of these errors occur when doctors fail to adhere to the standards accepted by the medical community. But why do these errors happen?

Many of these errors stem from medical negligence. About 20 percent of medical errors result from a lack of sleep. Tired doctors have a tendency to make poor judgment calls when treating their patients.

Another thing that causes errors is patient rudeness. It turns out that a patient's behavior can impact that quality of treatment he or she receives. A recent study by the University of Florida discovered that close to 40 percent of medical errors occur because the patient behaved rudely.

The study specifically looked at whether doctors would make mistakes when treating a child if the child's mother behaved rudely. Thirty-nine ICU teams of two doctors and two nurses were asked to simulate five different scenarios when treating infant medical mannequins. Some teams were subjected to rudeness from an actress who played the baby's mother. The results showed that the teams that were treated rudely made life-changing mistakes in 11 of 11 measures. Some of these mistakes included misdiagnosis and failure to prescribe a proper treatment plan for the patient.

Researchers found that doctors, like other people, are impacted by social interaction on a cognitive level even if they don't mean to be. Therefore, we need to figure out ways to teach medical professionals how to handle rudeness and make sure it doesn't impact their work. Researchers had some physicians play a computer game to help them better tolerate their negative feelings. Some doctors were asked to write about their day as if they were the baby's mother. Those who completed the computer training before treating the infant mannequin were not affected by the rudeness. Writing about the day did not positively impact the doctors' performance. Researchers will continue to come up with new ways to prevent medical errors.

Source: Consumer Affairs, "Being rude to your child's doctor could have harmful consequences," Sarah Young, Jan. 16, 2017

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Michael J. Gaffney, Attorney at Law
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