Surgeon communication behaviors that lead patients to not recommend the surgeon to family members or friends: Analysis and impact

Robert B. McLafferty, Reed G. Williams, Andrew D. Lambert, Gary L. Dunnington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: This study analyzes specific elements of physician communication that lead patients to not recommend surgeons to family members or friends (FMoFs). Methods: Patients completed questionnaires after surgery clinic encounters. Questionnaires addressed whether surgeons used optimal communication behaviors and whether patients would recommend the surgeon. Results: A total of 1,514 questionnaires were completed for 39 surgeons. Patients reported the following communication lapses: failure to ask whether the patient had questions (6.9% of occasions), failure to sit down (6.5%), use of words patients could not understand (5%), failure to educate patients about their condition (4.3%), failure to introduce themselves (4%), lack of interest in patients as persons (2.4%), and inadequacies in answering questions (2%). Surgeons omitted at least one of these optimal behaviors in 16.3% of encounters. Surgeons were not recommended in 1.7% of encounters. Twelve surgeons (31%) were not recommended on at least 1 occasion. Behaviors omitted most commonly in encounters where patients wouldn't recommend surgeons included failure to show interest in the patient (52%), explain their medical condition (52%), invite questions (40%), and answer questions (36%). Conclusions: Extrapolating these results to 1,618 patient visits/surgeon/year, results in the following number of patients annually who do not recommend their surgeons: 15 for failure to adequately explain their medical condition, 15 for failure to show interest in them, 11 for failure to ask if the patient had questions, and 10 for failure to answer questions. Considering the ripple effect due to the number of a patient's FMoFs, surgeons should be aware of the significant impact of even occasional lapses in optimal communication behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)616-624
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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