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Teaching doctors the art of negotiation

The New York Times, January 24, 2014

Doctors negotiate every day, almost constantly — sometimes dramatically, often imperceptibly. They hold family meetings to resolve sensitive end-of-life issues. They address barriers to medication adherence. They encourage patients to receive uncomfortable screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms. They refuse treatments that are requested but not medically indicated. Yet they receive almost no formal instruction in how to do so. Dealing with medical colleagues creates an additional layer of negotiating complexity—especially in busy academic centers with competing demands on specialists' time. Medicine is increasingly a team sport. In 1970, only about 2.5 full-time clinical staff cared for the average hospital patient; today, that number is greater than 15.