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Arch Hellen Med, 28(2), March-April 2011, 272-276


Physician-patient communication and medical errors:
The role of patient-centered medicine in malpractice prevention

Ζ. Tsimtsiou,1 K. Kaltsos2
1Urban Health Center of Evosmos, Thessaloniki,
2First Department of Ophthalmology,"AHEPA" University Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece

The quality of care is not the major determinant of the patient's decision to pursue a malpractice claim. Breakdown in the doctor-patient communication and relationship are critical factors in the path to malpractice litigation. Effective doctor-patient communication is crucial, especially in the case of medical error, as patients are more willing to forgive their doctors for the medical error than for the doctors' lack of respect for their concerns and their need for information. Patients pursue malpractice claims when they feel rushed, ignored and under-informed by their physicians. International recommendations suggest that physicians should include patients as active participants in their own care. Active involvement of patients in the decision-making process is suggested, which includes providing adequate information, showing empathy, viewing the illness experience through the patients' eyes and, finally, being open and candid when adverse events occur. Physicians should adopt the patient-centered practice of medicine, recognizing the importance of understanding the special preferences of each patient and the need for providing adequate information. The adoption of a patient centered model can result in preventing malpractice claims, but this should not be the primary goal; the provision of high quality, humanistic care tailored to each patient's special needs remains the best reason for effective communication.

Key words: Doctor-patient communication, Litigation, Malpractice, Medical error, Patient-centered medicine.

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