Webinar: Fighting Disruptive Behavior and the “Conspiracy of Silence”

June 1, 2012 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


Disruptive physician behavior “diminishes the flow of communication” and jeopardizes patient safety but is frequently underreported due to the victim’s fear of reprisal, said Kenneth M. Hekman, M.B.A., FACMPE, speaking during a May 17, 2012, webinar sponsored by the Medical Group Management Association. Indeed, in a polling question asked during the webinar, 47% of respondents indicated risk to patient safety as their main concern regarding disruptive behavior, while 39% indicated that they were concerned with malpractice suits; nearly all respondents (95%) stated that they were concerned with demoralization of staff or peers (respondents were permitted to select multiple answers). Reluctance to report disruptive behavior, what Hekman calls “a conspiracy of silence,” makes it harder for risk managers and practice managers to identify and rectify problems. However, Hekman says, organizations that establish a culture that does not allow disruptive behavior and consistently model good behavior can root out the problem behavior. When possible, Hekman recommends avoiding disruptive behavior before it can be exhibited, most prominently though the hiring process—asking good questions during the interview (e.g., How do you manage stress? What makes you really angry?), digging deeper for references, and administering “emotional intelligence” assessments.

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