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The JAMA Network Journals

Patients whose surgeons had a history of higher numbers of patient complaints had an increased risk of surgical and medical complications, according to a study published online by JAMA Surgery.

Patient complaints are associated with risk of medical malpractice claims. Because lawsuits may be triggered by an unexpected adverse outcome superimposed on a strained patient-physician relationship, a question remains as to whether behaviors that generate patient dissatisfaction might also contribute to the genesis of adverse outcomes themselves.

William O. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues used data from seven academic medical centers and included patients who underwent inpatient or outpatient operations, and examined unsolicited patient observations (patient complaints) provided to a patient reporting system for the patient’s surgeon in the 24 months preceding the date of the operation. Some patient complaints described behaviors that might intimidate or deter communication; others included patients’ observations of a physician’s disrespectful or rude interaction with other health care team members that might distract focus.

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