Dr. Nasty: Avoid a Doctor that Treats You Like Dirt

Edward Broughton

Director, Research and Evaluation, USAID ASSIST Project/URC

Is a nasty doctor bad in other ways? Apparently, if your doctor treats you like dirt, there may be more reason to avoid him or her other than the fact that it’s not good to be treated like dirt – by your doctor or anyone else.

According to a study in US hospitals by Dr. Gerald Hickson of Vanderbilt Medical Center but not yet published, surgeons who have the most unsolicited complaints about their behavior against them also have the highest proportion of adverse events like infections and hemorrhage from the surgeries they performed. It’s not clear yet that nasty behavior by doctors causes poor quality care – there might be something else behind the association.  (If a surgeon accidentally leaves an instrument inside you, you might look a little more critically about every aspect of your interaction with him/her in a less favorable light). And until there are studies asking similar questions involving other health providers and other health outcomes done in low and middle income countries, we cannot say how relevant this is for the ASSIST Project’s work. However, it is worth keeping these findings in mind when we look at provider-patient interactions and quality of care. In the meantime, I’m going to try to get my health care from good practitioners who are also nice to me.

Here's the radio interview from Dr. Hickson.

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