Nice physicians aren't necessarily good physicians

Physicians who form strong bonds with their patients find it more difficult to make objective care decisions, especially for young physicians in emotionally taxing specialties like oncology, according to a study from Sussex Health Outcomes Research and Education in Cancer.

Judgment may be impaired when physicians allow patients to use first names, connect with patients on social media, give out personal contact information or greet patients with a hug or a kiss. The study found most of these behaviors are pretty common among young physicians. Most of the 338 oncologists surveyed allowed patients to call them by their first name, approximately 60 percent allowed patients to hug or kiss them hello and goodbye, 55 percent shared their personal cell phone numbers with patients and 14 percent were Facebook friends with patients, according to the study.

Despite the friendly behavior, 60 percent of oncologists surveyed said they cannot make objective decisions if they are too emphathetic with patients — 59 percent even felt being partial to a patient makes it more difficult to be truthful with them about difficult prognoses.

"Although these results need replicating, they show a worrying trend," Malcolm Reed, PhD, the incoming dean of Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said in the report. He called for professional boundaries to be emphasized among students and young physicians.

The online survey was completed by 338 European oncologists under the age of 40 in August.


More articles on integration and physician issues:

5 steps to physician alignment using gainsharing

Collecting from patients with high deductibles: 5 things to consider

Independent oncologists dwindle, cancer patients accept rising costs

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