Hugh Laurie’s rude character in the world-renowned TV series House M.D. really knew how to twist the knife, which is exactly what made the grumpy doctor with a weak spot for satire and self-destruction so popular. However, should real life physicians follow in his footsteps, it would bring the nation a bill of approximately $3 billion in extra healthcare costs to patients, insurers, and hospitals, researchers say. Not to mention multiple malpractice lawsuits, say health officials at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Recently, a team of researchers analyzed complaints against various surgeons from approximately 32,000 patients who were treated or underwent surgeries at seven different academic medical centers over the past couple of years, including Emory, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, UCLA, University of North Carolina, Penn, and Stanford. After identifying the surgeons with the most complaints, the researchers looked at whether the patients who filed said complaints had suffered any health complications within a month after their surgeries.
Interestingly enough, the Vanderbilt researchers discovered that patients who have been mistreated were 14 percent more susceptible to health complications post-surgery. The study’s lead author, Dr. William Cooper, believes the way a disrespectful surgeon is addressing a patient is reflected onto other operating room team members, ultimately resulting in poor treatment for the patient.
Dr. Cooper provided an example as to how a surgeon’s inappropriate behavior towards other operating room team members can have negative consequences for the patient. He said that checking whether the right patient is in the room and if the surgeon is going to operate at the right site is a standard safety procedure nurses have to initiate. However, if the surgeon is in a hurry, for some reason, and disregards the procedure, trying to move on with the surgery as fast as possible, hasting the nurses as well in the process, the operating room team members will abstain in the future from initiating the safety procedure.
At the same time, if the surgeon is constantly disrespectful towards another operating room team member, that individual will be more focused on the surgeon’s reaction rather than interested in the task at hand. Hence, the 14 percent difference in post-surgery health complications because of rude surgeons, translates into $3 billion in extra costs to patients, noted the Vanderbilt researchers.
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