Doctors That Communicate Well Tend to Reduce Lawsuits

Communication appears to be key in preventing medical malpractice lawsuits. It’s uncertain whether this is because communication helps prevent medical errors, or because it fosters better doctor-patient relationships. Either way, the statistics are hard to ignore.


A Florida study showed that only six percent of obstetricians accounted for over 70 percent of medical malpractice suits during a five year period. Many of these doctors had been sued multiple times. A separate study looked at malpractice lawsuits filed by mothers following their newborns’ injuries or death. The vast majority claimed their doctors would not talk openly with them, tried to mislead them, or hadn’t warned them about neurodevelopmental problems.

A Communication Program That Works

Doctors with few to no lawsuits typically spend more time with patients, and are more likely to use humor, talk openly, and clearly express their opinions. It appears that the more likeable a physician is, the less likely he or she is to get sued. Despite these findings, the majority of efforts to reduce malpractice suits still concentrate on making it more difficult for patients to sue. There are some exceptions, however. A University of Michigan program, for example, focuses on improving communications surrounding medical errors. The program encourages doctors to discuss errors with patients, apologize for mistakes, and offer compensation if harm occurs. A 2010 study of the program found that it does work. Claims dropped 36 percent in the years following program implementation, and lawsuits plummeted a total of 65 percent.

Unfortunately, not enough physicians appear willing to make the behavior changes necessary to improve the risk of lawsuits. Most continue to focus on “defensive medicine,” ordering extra tests, and scheduling more office visits. However, evidence shows that this has little effect on the incidence of lawsuits.

Less Tests, More Talk

Poor communication continues to be the norm in the doctor-patient relationship. Learning to focus less on excessive tests and appointments and more on improved communication is no small task for many doctors. However, better communication skills seem to have a significantly positive impact on whether they are sued. A physician can be highly skilled at identifying illnesses, performing surgeries, or diagnosing health conditions. However, if he or she is a bad communicator, it can spell disaster for a patient’s health and well-being. Poor communication can result in misdiagnosis, medication errors, and many other forms of malpractice.

Altman & Altman LLP – Medical Malpractice Attorneys

At Altman & Altman LLP, we understand how frustrating it can be when physicians fail to communicate effectively with patients. Facing an illness can be an incredibly scary, lonely experience. Most people look to their doctor for peace of mind or answers to their most pressing concerns. When doctors refuse to communicate or communicate poorly, it can make an already challenging situation even more difficult.  Our team of skilled, compassionate attorneys knows that poor communication can result in injury and death. We understand the unique complexities surrounding malpractice cases. Even minor errors can be financially devastating. At Altman & Altman LLP, we will be with you throughout the entire process. If you’ve been misdiagnosed, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other associated costs. Contact Altman & Altman LLP today for a free consultation about your case.

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