Does quality of care suffer when a patient or family member is rude?

February 1, 2017

shutterstock_158366573There are plenty of reasons to show courtesy and respect, and a new study adds one more: When the parent of a critically ill child is rude, doctors and nurses can be rattled, affecting the quality of their care.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, was part of medical team training in a neonatal intensive care unit. Three teams started their day confronted by a “mother” (played by an actress) who accused them of misdiagnosing her baby’s condition. The fourth team was not accused.

The medical teams treated infant mannequins suffering from shock or severe respiratory distress. finding: Doctors and nurses who were treated rudely made worse decisions about care.

The teams that were scolded scored lower on 11 different measurements, including diagnostic accuracy, information sharing and therapeutic planning.

In fact, “exposure to rudeness helped explain about 40 percent of the variance of good medical decision-making between the different teams,” co-author Amir Erez, a professor at University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business, told HealthDay News.

“There is a lot of concern about medical errors, but the medical field is not paying attention at all to the effect that social interactions can have on performance,” Erez added. “This could potentially save lives.”

The study also found that doctors and nurses could blunt the negative effects of rudeness through training designed to counter their emotional sensitivity.

What can patients and their families do? Consumer Reports offers this advice:

  1. Don’t ignore symptoms.
  2. Be courteous to office staff.
  3. Tell the doctor everything.
  4. Trust your doctor (and find a doctor who trusts you).

Want to learn more about how to access high-quality, affordable care? Visit the Voices for Affordable Health Resources page and sign up for email news updates.