How Do Physicians Handle Disagreements With Colleagues' Medical Opinions?

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    Doctors Magazine

    How Do Physicians Handle Disagreements With Colleagues' Medical Opinions?

    When medical professionals encounter differing opinions, the resolution process is as crucial as the diagnosis itself. An MD and Medical Advisor begins by advocating for constructive professional dialogue, while our collection includes additional answers from various healthcare roles, some outside the realm of direct medical expertise. From engaging in direct physician communication to seeking mediation for dispute resolution, these responses encapsulate the diverse approaches to handling disagreements in healthcare settings.

    • Engage in Constructive Professional Dialogue
    • Combine Expertise with Evidence-Based Medicine
    • Resolve Through Direct Physician Communication
    • Utilize Ethics Committees for Neutral Arbitration
    • Refer to Clinical Guidelines for Consensus
    • Collaborate in Interdisciplinary Team Meetings
    • Enhance Understanding Through Peer Review
    • Seek Mediation for Dispute Resolution

    Engage in Constructive Professional Dialogue

    Prioritizing professionalism and understanding where the counter-opinion is coming from are key in such conflict situations. In my own experience, after carefully listening to their rationale, I ensured my understanding of their perspective was complete. Subsequently, I respectfully shared my viewpoint, offering evidence and logical explanations to support it.

    Being aware of the fact that different medical schools approach similar problems differently and that sometimes there is no right or wrong, we engaged in constructive dialogue. We explored various approaches and exchanged insights. Our collaboration led us to a consensus that considered the patient's best interests. This experience not only fostered a stronger professional relationship but also underscored the value of collaborative decision-making in healthcare.

    Dila KavameMD, Medical Advisor, Cybele

    Combine Expertise with Evidence-Based Medicine

    In my career as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and knee injuries, disagreements with colleagues are not uncommon, given the rapidly evolving nature of the field and the complexities of each case. One particular situation I recall involved a patient with a persistent shoulder issue. After conservative management had failed, surgery was on the table. A colleague recommended an arthroscopic approach, while, based on the patient's detailed history, physical examination, and my experience, I believed an open surgical procedure would be more beneficial in the long term.

    Having developed a subspecialty in shoulder surgery during my fellowship with Dr. Felix “Buddy” Savoie, I have had extensive experience and success with open surgical techniques, which have provided patients with durable results, especially in complex cases. I shared with my colleague data and outcomes from similar cases I had managed, highlighting the benefits and long-term success rates associated with the open procedure for this type of injury. In addition, I referenced the latest literature supporting this approach for the specific pathology we were addressing.

    After a thorough discussion and review of the patient's imaging and medical history, we mutually agreed to proceed with the open surgical procedure. The surgery was successful, and the patient achieved excellent recovery and functional outcomes. This experience highlights the importance of open communication and respect for different viewpoints in the medical community. It also underscores the value of combining individual expertise with evidence-based medicine to tailor the treatment to the patient's specific condition, ensuring the best possible outcome. Engaging in such dialogues not only benefits the patient but also enriches our professional growth by exposing us to varied perspectives and approaches.

    Robert Mclaughlin Ii, Md
    Robert Mclaughlin Ii, MdPresident, Boston Concierge Orthopedics

    Resolve Through Direct Physician Communication

    At OmniSpine Pain Management, we sometimes encounter opinions on topics with which we disagree. Typically, we find it best to reach out to the other physician for a brief phone call to get on the same page regarding the patient's care. Physicians do occasionally differ in opinion; however, they typically have the patient's best interest in mind. In the past, when contact with the other physician has been made via a phone call, it typically results in an agreed-upon course of care for the patient.

    Andrew Morchower, MdPain Doctor, OmniSpine Pain Management

    Utilize Ethics Committees for Neutral Arbitration

    When physicians find themselves in the midst of a disagreement over medical opinions, ethics committees can serve as neutral arbitrators. These committees are comprised of professionals trained to navigate complex ethical issues, ensuring that patient care remains the top priority. They provide a space where doctors can present their cases without bias, allowing for a structured dialogue that respects both parties' professional viewpoints.

    An ethics committee’s role is to dissect the issue and guide towards a resolution that upholds the highest standard of medical practice. If facing such disagreements, it is advisable to seek out the expertise of an ethics committee to resolve your professional conflicts amicably.

    Refer to Clinical Guidelines for Consensus

    Physicians dealing with differences in medical opinions often turn to clinical guidelines to help harmonize their decisions. These guidelines are carefully researched and represent a consensus on best practices within the medical community. They serve as a common ground where doctors can align their strategies, rooted in evidence and shared standards of care.

    In doing so, this reliance on established protocols minimizes subjectivity and promotes the delivery of consistent treatment across differing opinions. If ever in doubt, physicians should reference these benchmarks to inform their care approaches and to validate their clinical choices.

    Collaborate in Interdisciplinary Team Meetings

    Interdisciplinary team meetings are another method by which doctors manage dissenting medical views. These meetings encourage open communication among healthcare professionals from various specialties. By discussing different perspectives in a team setting, participants can gain a deeper understanding of each others' rationale.

    This collective approach often leads to collaborative solutions that consider the knowledge and experience of the entire team. All medical professionals should engage proactively in these meetings to cultivate a shared vision for patient care.

    Enhance Understanding Through Peer Review

    Peer review is a formal process within the medical field that provides a systematic way to evaluate differing clinical decisions. During peer review, a physician's clinical judgement is examined by other professionals in order to ensure it aligns with best practices and standards. This critical assessment can help to clarify the reasoning behind a decision and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

    It acts as a valuable educational tool that fosters learning and development among colleagues. Physicians should not hesitate to participate in peer review processes to enhance their professional growth and maintain the integrity of medical care.

    Seek Mediation for Dispute Resolution

    Lastly, mediation services offer a pathway to resolution when there is professional discord. Mediators are trained to facilitate discussions between disputing parties, aiming to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement without taking sides.

    This process is particularly useful in situations where there is significant disagreement, and a compromise needs to be found that respects both the medical perspectives and the well-being of the patient. For physicians seeking to mend professional relationships and find common ground, consider utilizing a mediator.