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Poor Bedside Manner Linked to Patient Complaints

Physicians with lower communication scores are more likely to have complaints filed against them

TUESDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Physicians with the lowest patient communication scores on a national clinical skills exam are more likely to have a patient complain to regulatory authorities than physicians with high scores, according to study findings published in the Sept. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Robyn Tamblyn, Ph.D., of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and colleagues conducted a study of 3,424 physicians who took the Medical Council of Canada clinical skills exam between 1993 and 1996. They followed physicians until 2005 in order to assess the relationship between test scores and the prevalence of patient complaints.

Patients filed a total of 1,116 complaints, including 696 that were retained after investigation. Almost one-fifth of all physicians had at least one retained complaint, the majority of which involved communication or quality-of-care problems. Lower patient-physician communication scores were associated with a higher rate of retained complaints, especially for scores in the bottom quartile. Scoring 2 standard deviations below the mean was associated with a 38 percent increase in the complaint rate.

"In summary, we found that communication and clinical decision-making ability were important predictors of future complaints to regulatory authorities. Current examinations could be modified to test these attributes more efficiently and at earlier points in the training process," the authors conclude.

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