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Doctor-patient communication

Summary: In these claims and complaints, the content of the communication (or lack thereof) was the most common concern raised, followed by the manner of communication.

Monday, 27 March 2023

4 in 10 claims and complaints involved doctor-patient communication

In these claims and complaints, the content of the communication (or lack thereof) was the most common concern raised, followed by the manner of communication.

Data source: claims and complaints closed 2017-18 to 2021-22

Data source: claims and complaints closed 2017-18 to 2021-22

Data source: claims and complaints involving communication issues closed 2017-18 to 2021-22

Content issues

Lack of information was the main reason for allegations relating to the content of doctor-patient communication, specifically:

  • Lack of information provided about a patient’s condition or results of tests (e.g. patients and family felt uninformed or received an inadequate explanation)
  • Lack of information provided during the consent process (e.g. inadequate/absence of discussion of options or risks, non-disclosure of fees).
Lack of information was the main reason for allegations relating to the content of doctor-patient communication

Manner issues

Most frequently reported allegations were:

  • Inappropriate manner of communication (e.g. doctor ignored or did not listen to the patient, doctor was brusque, angry or irritated with the patient)
  • Lack of empathy and concern (e.g. patient did not feel respected, doctor appeared arrogant, judgmental, inconsiderate).

The analysis found that a perceived lack of care or consideration for the patient was common in many manner-related allegations.

The analysis found that a perceived lack of care or consideration for the patient was common in many manner-related allegations.

Assessment of the care provided

In one in five allegations about communication, experts and/or regulators assessed that the doctor did not meet the standard of care.

In one in five allegations about communication, experts and/or regulators assessed that the doctor did not meet the standard of care.

Key points

  • Content and manner were the two main issues in claims and complaints about doctor-patient communication.
  • Lack of information provided was the most common allegation about the content communicated.
  • Inappropriate manner of communication and lack of empathy were the key allegations regarding manner of communication.
  • Perception of lack of care or consideration for the patient underlies many allegations about the manner of communication.
  • One in five communication-related allegations was assessed not to meet the standard of care.

About the analysis

This report is based on our analysis of the underlying themes of 5,833 complaints to regulators and compensation claims for Avant members from all specialties involving doctor-patient communication allegations. These were classified as those for which this was the primary or secondary allegation. Only claims and complaints finalised between July 2017 and June 2022 were included in the analysis.

More resources

For more information on communicating with patients, including advice about obtaining consent and a wide range of other topics, visit the Avants insights and resources, where you will find articles, case studies, podcasts, webinars, videos, factsheets and many other resources. For any queries on this analysis, please contact us at research@avant.org.au

For any queries on this analysis, please contact us at research@avant.org.

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Doctor-patient communication - Claims and complaints insights (PDF)

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