Physicians can't criticize other docs in front of patients

Badmouthing in the workplace doesn't just lead to offended colleagues; in healthcare, it can hurt patient satisfaction and care. What's worse, such unprofessional behavior often occurs before patients, Medscape Today reported.

A recent study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that when the physician-patient encounter includes discussions about previous care, many doctors badmouth other physicians to patients.

The researchers had people portray advanced cancer patients and covertly record 35 visits with 20 community-based oncologists and 19 family physicians to hear what physicians say to patients about previous care. 

At 14 visits, physicians made 42 comments about care rendered by other physicians. Of those comments, 28 were critical--such as a doctor in one specialty criticizing a doctor in another specialty or expressing distrust in physicians. Physicians made only 12 supportive comments and two neutral, the study noted.

Doctors "throwing each other under the bus," as the study author describes, creates poor teamwork among healthcare providers, which is linked to patient mortality and low employee well-being.

In addition, voicing negative judgments about other physicians in front of patients can fuel lawsuits, according to a report this year from Medscape. Responses from 3,500 physicians across 25 specialty areas cited hospital physicians freely deriding the care of ambulatory care doctors in front of patients and their families as a main cause of medical malpractice lawsuits.

To prevent doctors from criticizing each other and other unprofessional conduct that can inhibit the safety and well-being of patients and staff and increase the risk of lawsuits, hospital leaders must educate managers about the different types of unprofessional conduct and their cost, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- read the Medscape article
- check out the study
- here's the malpractice report