Over half of all US physicians will be sued for malpractice at some point in their career. Every goody two-shoes knows how to avoid that: be kind and compassionate, yada, yada, yada. Here we reverse the scenario and reveal 15 highly effective habits that, in the face of a bad outcome, might inspire patients to give a personal injury lawyer your address.
In a previous post I mentioned that over half of all US physicians will be sued for malpractice at some point in their career, accused of committing what is defined as “injury” as a result of substandard or negligent treatment. When attempting to define what constitutes malpractice in cancer care, however, the task is complicated by the injuries from the disease itself, not to mention the unavoidable toxicities from the drugs used in good faith to help the patient. If I tell someone that she probably won’t lose her hair from chemotherapy and she does lose it, have I failed her? If I treat two patients with identical diagnoses and one lives 3 months and the other 3 years, is this inconsistency a mark of inferior care? There is no way to soften the fact that even with superb care, when cancer itself delivers suffering and death it establishes the sine qua non of a legal injury-an adverse outcome. Oncologists therefore practice on high alert, and wise are those who have learned to heed cancer’s appetite for cruelty and its reckless, indiscriminate ability to kill. Combined with the well-documented various and ugly side effects of treatment (without which the chance of remission is, short of a miracle, nil), how do we satisfy the standard of care when our patients are already at high risk for injury? Hey, every goody two-shoes knows the answer to that question: be kind and compassionate, yada, yada, yada. Let’s reverse the scenario and reveal 15 highly effective habits that, in the face of a bad outcome, inspire patients to give a personal injury lawyer your address.
You need not bother with introductions, smiles, or handshakes. Avoid eye contact and remain standing-makes it easier to slip out of the room.
Never let the mask of indifference slip during times of sadness-it weakens your resolve. Keep those emotions buried.
If faced with a confrontation you have every right to bristle or blow your top. You always know what’s best! Don’t let your judgment be questioned.
Get into the habit of delegating all tasks to your staff. Your time is too precious to review records, check x-rays, etc. The minute patients are not in your sight, forget about them.
When given a choice, always perform at the lowest level of effort. No one gives you praise or extra pay if you work harder than the minimum, so why bother?
Relieve yourself of the agony of reading medical journals. After all, nobody seems to appreciate or care that you are smarter than you were last year. Your practice is just fine as it is.
Always follow rigid rules of conduct and engagement with your patients. Save your light-hearted personality for after work. If you want laughs in the office, hire a stand-up comedian.
Just assume that your patients are exaggerating. Plug your ears when you hear of a new problem, or at least downplay it.
Try to convey information with absolutely no hint of empathy. Remember to keep your distance. It helps to forget that these are real people you’re speaking to.
Learn to fear the truth, for that may bring discord. Try not to give direct answers unless you’re cornered.
If a patient fires you for your lack of commitment to them, so what? Just move on to the next one. Your time is sacred, so keep them coming.
Remember, you’re at risk for doctor burnout. You don’t want to put any extra stress on you by being the bearer of misfortune, right? Let some other sucker do it.