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Concept: Doctor


Fruit consumption is believed to have beneficial health effects, and some claim, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Concepts: Medicine, Doctor


OBJECTIVES: (1) To determine the distribution of formal patient complaints across Australia’s medical workforce and (2) to identify characteristics of doctors at high risk of incurring recurrent complaints. METHODS: We assembled a national sample of all 18 907 formal patient complaints filed against doctors with health service ombudsmen (‘Commissions’) in Australia over an 11-year period. We analysed the distribution of complaints among practicing doctors. We then used recurrent-event survival analysis to identify characteristics of doctors at high risk of recurrent complaints, and to estimate each individual doctor’s risk of incurring future complaints. RESULTS: The distribution of complaints among doctors was highly skewed: 3% of Australia’s medical workforce accounted for 49% of complaints and 1% accounted for a quarter of complaints. Short-term risks of recurrence varied significantly among doctors: there was a strong dose-response relationship with number of previous complaints and significant differences by doctor specialty and sex. At the practitioner level, risks varied widely, from doctors with <10% risk of further complaints within 2 years to doctors with >80% risk. CONCLUSIONS: A small group of doctors accounts for half of all patient complaints lodged with Australian Commissions. It is feasible to predict which doctors are at high risk of incurring more complaints in the near future. Widespread use of this approach to identify high-risk doctors and target quality improvement efforts coupled with effective interventions, could help reduce adverse events and patient dissatisfaction in health systems.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Medicine, Health, Risk, Physician, Dose-response relationship, Doctor


OBJECTIVE: Breaking bad news (BBN) is a significant source of stress for doctors. In this study we qualitatively explored doctors' perceptions of their BBN experiences, to identify the range of appraisal and coping processes associated with this task. METHODS: Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 28 junior and senior doctors. RESULTS: Doctors recalled physical and emotional stress symptoms during the BBN task, although they tended not to describe it as a ‘stressful’ experience. Senior doctors appeared to engage in more problem-focused and meaning-focused coping strategies than junior doctors, and this may have been due to their greater experience and control over patient selection and work structures. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insight into the range of different coping responses experienced by doctors in relation to the task of breaking bad medical news. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: The results reinforce and refine the imperative for further training to address the impact of BBN from the doctor’s perspective if performance of this critical task is to be improved.

Concepts: Psychology, Physician, Experience, Perspective, Doctor, Richard Lazarus, Breaking Bad


Reaching a decision about whether and when to visit the doctor can be a difficult process for the patient. An early visit may cause the doctor to wonder why the patient chose to consult when the disease was self-limiting and symptoms would have settled without medical input. A late visit may cause the doctor to express dismay that the patient waited so long before consulting. In the UK primary care context of constrained resources and government calls for cautious healthcare spending, there is all the more pressure on both doctor and patient to meet only when necessary. A tendency on the part of health professionals to judge patients' decisions to consult as appropriate or not is already described. What is less well explored is the patient’s experience of such judgment. Drawing on data from 52 video-elicitation interviews conducted in the English primary care setting, the present paper examines how patients seek to legitimise their decision to consult, and their struggles in doing so. The concern over wasting the doctor’s time is expressed repeatedly through patients' narratives. Referring to the sociological literature, the history of ‘trivia’ in defining the role of general practice is discussed, and current public discourses seeking to assist the patient in developing appropriate consulting behaviour are considered and problematised. Whilst the patient is expected to have sufficient insight to inform timely consulting behaviour, it becomes clear that any attempt on the part of doctor or patient to define legitimate help-seeking is in fact elusive. Despite this, a significant moral dimension to what is deemed appropriate consulting by doctors and patients remains. The notion of candidacy is suggested as a suitable framework and way forward for encompassing these struggles to negotiate eligibility for medical time.

Concepts: Patient, Hospital, Physician, Illness, Doctor-patient relationship, Patience, General practitioner, Doctor


Patient advocates and safety experts encourage adoption of transparent health records, but sceptics worry that shared notes may offend patients, erode trust or promote defensive medicine. As electronic health records disseminate, such disparate views fuel policy debates about risks and benefits of sharing visit notes with patients through portals.

Concepts: Health care provider, Medicine, Patient, Hospital, Physician, Illness, Doctor-patient relationship, Doctor


Long daytime and overnight shifts remain a major feature of working life for trainees in anaesthesia. Over the past 10 years, there has been an increase in awareness and understanding of the potential effects of fatigue on both the doctor and the patient. The Working Time Regulations (1998) implemented the European Working Time Directive into UK law, and in August 2009 it was applied to junior doctors, reducing the maximum hours worked from an average of 56 per week to 48. Despite this, there is evidence that problems with inadequate rest and fatigue persist. There is no official guidance regarding provision of a minimum standard of rest facilities for doctors in the National Health Service, and the way in which rest is achieved by trainee anaesthetists during their on-call shift depends on rota staffing and workload. We conducted a national survey to assess the incidence and effects of fatigue among the 3772 anaesthetists in training within the UK. We achieved a response rate of 59% (2231/3772 responses), with data from 100% of NHS trusts. Fatigue remains prevalent among junior anaesthetists, with reports that it has effects on physical health (73.6% [95%CI 71.8-75.5]), psychological wellbeing (71.2% [69.2-73.1]) and personal relationships (67.9% [65.9-70.0]). The most problematic factor remains night shift work, with many respondents commenting on the absence of breaks, inadequate rest facilities and 57.0% (55.0-59.1) stating they had experienced an accident or near-miss when travelling home from night shifts. We discuss potential explanations for the results, and present a plan to address the issues raised by this survey, aiming to change the culture around fatigue for the better.

Concepts: Health care, Health, Training, Employment, National Health Service, Shift work, Doctor, Working time


A friend of ours, Dr. Sam Brisbane, died recently. He was a Liberian doctor, and he died from Ebola, a horrible, nightmarish disease. Information coming out of Liberia has been scarce. Since Dr. Brisbane’s death, we’ve learned that other doctors and nurses with whom we’ve worked have also contracted Ebola and have died or are being treated in the types of rudimentary facilities we see on the news. As we live in dread of each phone call, questions about how we die and what we’re willing to die for have been weighing on us. The ancients had a concept of . . .

Concepts: Disease, Death, Senescence, Demography, English-language films, Doctor, Euthanasia


Background:English Be Clear on Cancer (BCOC) campaigns aim to promote early presentation of potential cancer symptoms by (i) giving information on symptoms to look out for, and (ii) emphasising the approachability of the general practitioner (GP). This study examined public awareness of the targeted symptoms and perceived approachability of the GP before and after the national bowel and lung campaigns.Methods:The Cancer Research UK Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) was included in the Opinions and Lifestyle survey (known then as the ‘Opinions Survey’) run by the Office for National Statistics in October and November 2010 and 2012. Change in awareness of symptoms and barriers to help-seeking related to those targeted in the campaigns between the 2010 and 2012 surveys, was compared with change in awareness of symptoms and barriers not targeted by the campaigns.Results:Recall of ‘persistent cough’ or ‘hoarseness’ as a sign of cancer increased from 18% in 2010 to 26% in 2012 (P<0.001), and 'change in bowel/bladder habits' increased from 21% to 43% (P<0.01). Recognition of these symptoms (from a list of symptoms) also increased significantly (both P-values <0.01). Awareness of non-targeted symptoms did not increase (all P-values >0.02). Barriers to visiting the GP targeted in the campaign (the doctor would be difficult to talk to and being worried about wasting the doctor’s time) did not change, although several non-targeted barriers reduced.Conclusions:BCOC campaigns run in England in 2012 were associated with increased public awareness of some key symptoms of lung and bowel cancer. Barriers to visiting the GP that were targeted in the campaign were not reduced, indicating that a different approach may be needed to shift public attitudes towards GPs.British Journal of Cancer advance online publication, 3 March 2015; doi:10.1038/bjc.2015.32

Concepts: Cancer, Asthma, Lung cancer, Pneumonia, Cough, General practitioner, Doctor, Cancer research


A doctor who stutters confronts the stigma against patients-and providers-with disabilities.

Concepts: Physician, Doctor


The US malpractice system is widely regarded as inefficient, in part because of the time required to resolve malpractice cases. Analyzing data from 40,916 physicians covered by a nationwide insurer, we found that the average physician spends 50.7 months-or almost 11 percent-of an assumed forty-year career with an unresolved, open malpractice claim. Although damages are a factor in how doctors perceive medical malpractice, even more distressing for the doctor and the patient may be the amount of time these claims take to be adjudicated. We conclude that this fact makes it important to assess malpractice reforms by how well they are able to reduce the time of malpractice litigation without undermining the needs of the affected patient.

Concepts: Medicine, Patient, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Pediatrics, Medical school, Doctor, Medical malpractice