Petty, Dangerous, Disruptive Doctors: Watch Out!

Mark E. Crane


November 10, 2017

In This Article

Unpleasant Behavior Does Happen

Most people working in healthcare probably have encountered a "problem" or "disruptive" doctor. Physician antisocial behavior takes many forms, ranging from the petty and silly to the dangerous and criminal. Temper tantrums, demeaning attitudes toward staff and patients, and a refusal to abide by the practice's or hospital's policies are all too common.

"I've seen everything—doctors striking patients, destroying hospital property, stalking nurses, surfing the Web for porn while at the hospital, shouting profanities at staffers, you name it," says Will Latham, a practice management consultant in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The problem of "problem" doctors is more extensive than many realize and has a far-reaching impact on patient safety, staff retention, a group's or hospital's malpractice liability risk, and the organization's financial bottom line.

More than 70% of physicians say that disruptive physician behavior occurs at least once a month at their organizations, and more than 10% say that such incidents occur every day, according to a 2011 study of more than 840 physicians and physician leaders from QuantiaMD and the American College of Physician Executives.[1] One half of the respondents reported that they know patients have left their practices because of disruptive physician behavior.

"You can put up with only so much abusive behavior before it crushes your spirit," says Ken Hekman, a practice management consultant in Holland, Michigan. "Some employees and patients will start voting with their feet and just quit. Patients are more likely to find another doctor rather than report the problem to the practice administrator."

In 2008, the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations started requiring hospitals to confront disruptive medical staff members, implement a code of conduct, and provide education to address the behavior. That new requirement has made hospitals far less tolerant of doctors who act out by throwing instruments or abusing staff.


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