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Physician, Heal Thy Disruptive Behavior

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, July 21, 2011

The EMRs (electronic medical records) bugged him worst of all. Throw in the stress of dealing with patients, procedures, even family life, and he was cranky. Steven Feeney, MD, admits he was not a terrific guy to work with.

 Feeney, 55, an internist at Johnson Memorial Hospital system in tiny Dawson, MN, also didn't realize he was becoming something of an archetype: the disruptive physician.

Through much of the past year, "things were getting frustrating for both me and the other physicians; different problems were affecting us," Feeney recalls. "We had our own frustrations with the level of work, the relations with administration, and also very big frustrations with the new EMR system. The stresses and strains were telling in our lives." says Feeney.

Feeney mentioned various 'frustrations" three times in two sentences. Like many physicians feeling angst, he had been for a while, and had been acting out those frustrations on others. Feeney grumbled or spoke out more than he thinks he should have, but other physicians have behaved worse – yelling, name calling, tossing things and hurting colleagues.

Those incidents are spelled out in a white paper on "Disruptive Physician Behavior," from the American College of Physician Executives and QuantiaMD. The report tallied 70% of 840 physician leaders who said disruptive behavior occurs at least once a month at their organizations, and more than 10% say such incidents occur daily. At least 77% physician executives say they are concerned about disruptive behavior.

Most alarming: 99% say that disruptive behavior affects patient care.

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