Trash-Talking Among Doctors Busts Teamwork

Jul. 11, 2013

“This guy’s an idiot!” Comments like that, coming from one doctor in reference to another, are unprofessional but not so rare - and they undermine patient trust, according to a URMC study highlighted in the New York Times.

doctors cooperatingTeamwork is a key to excellent healthcare, but researchers from Psychiatry and Family Medicine found that many doctors are openly critical of their colleagues while talking with new patients. The research involved the use of standardized patients (actors) who covertly recorded physician visits while pretending to have advanced lung cancer. The actors also said they had recently moved to town after being treated elsewhere.

Professor Susan H. McDaniel, Ph.D., lead author of the study, believes that when doctors “throw each other under the bus” it’s mostly unintentional and probably the result of stress and frustration. Some doctors might even think they’re being reassuring when they tell patients that the first physician didn’t do a good job but “now I’m going to take care of you,” McDaniel told the Times.

A physician-coaching program at URMC is already underway to solve the problem.

To read the full story, click here:

To see the abstract in the Journal of General Internal Medicine: