Casebook readers who have never attended any of our risk management workshops and master classes might ask themselves why MPS’s educational programmes focus so heavily on communication.
As doctors, we spend our professional lives seeking to finesse our clinical knowledge and our clinical skills. Fear of becoming “an out-of-date doctor”, coupled with a desire for excellence, probably sums up the strong psychological drivers for study and improvement shared by most members of our profession.
Thinking back to our experiences at medical school, many of us will no doubt remember how difficult it felt to be able to converse with patients and elicit a complete history during the early clinical years.
However, we persist and follow through and as our knowledge and practical skills grow, so does our history-taking ability – and we start to become competent and confident as diagnosticians.
It can be a rude shock, therefore, to find oneself in a situation where a patient is unhappy despite an objectively correct diagnosis and an excellently executed surgical or medical management plan.
“Why are they unhappy with me, when I did everything correctly?” “How dare they complain…” “I would understand if I had done something wrong… but a complaint when I did everything right is very unfair…”
A negative spiral can ensue where we either get angry at the patient and the family or sad or upset about the unfairness of a complaint that was not the result of a clinical mistake.
MPS’s claims data and international research consistently demonstrates the following: it is patient dissatisfaction with communication by their doctor that fuels the majority of complaints.