Is good doctor-patient communication the key to preventing litigation?: Dr. MC Gupta answers

M3 India Newsdesk Jan 23, 2020

What is the role of communication in healthcare facilities? Dr. MC Gupta puts forth his points on how a positive interaction between doctors, patients and their relatives is very important for preventing misunderstanding and misbehaviour, litigation, and violence.

QUESTION— What is the role of communication in healthcare facilities?

Dr. MC Gupta answers-

Proper communication with the patient and his/her relatives is very important for establishing good patient-doctor interaction and preventing misunderstanding and misbehaviour/litigation/violence by the patients or relatives. The following points are important:

  1. When a patient is admitted to the hospital, one of the first communications is by way of seeking consent for treatment. This is a crucial occasion when the patient and his attendants deserve and want to know about the nature of the disease and the mode of treatment and the likely outcome. The fact is that in most hospitals, consent is treated merely as a formality and the patient’s signatures are taken on a blank form without explaining anything. Dissatisfaction and litigation start when the patient realises that the expectations that he had or was given were not fulfilled.
  2. When there is an adverse outcome, for which the patient/attendants were not mentally prepared, they get agitated and even resort to violence. It is not to say that violence by patient’s attendants is defensible in any manner, but it is certainly a fact that proper communication, preferably by the treating doctor/a senior member of his team, spending sufficient time, would reduce the incidence of violence.
  3. Patients resort to litigation only when they think that they have a genuine grievance. Nobody goes to a doctor to get treated first and then sue him. They sue the doctor because they think there was medical negligence/malpractice. They resort to litigation because there is no mechanism to redress their grievance. It is highly desirable and recommended that every hospital should have a Grievance Redressal Committee which can be approached by a patient or his/her relatives if they feel there are deficiencies in treatment. Such a committee should have, a few permanent members (physician, surgeon, hospital administrator, hospital advocate) while other members can be co-opted as necessary. This committee should grant immediate hearing to the aggrieved party and should honestly and sincerely try to resolve the issue without appearing to favour the hospital/doctors. If such a grievance redressal committee is established in a hospital, it will go a long way in reducing litigation.


Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of M3 India.

Content from the writer has been directly replicated on the website. No edits have been made.

The writer, Dr. MC Gupta is a practising lawyer specialising in medical negligence cases. He also has an MD Medicine from AIIMS, Delhi where he also worked as a faculty member for 18 years, later working another 10 years as a Professor and Dean at National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi, before pursuing law.


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