Hidden meaning in a surgeon's voice
- By: Roger Dobson
Surgeons who speak with a dominating tone and who sound less concerned in conversation with their patients than other surgeons are more likely to have been sued for malpractice.
Researchers found that sampling just a few seconds of conversations between doctors and patients was sufficient to identify doctors with a history of claims against them.
“The present findings are novel in that they show that speech and voice tone alone, judged from mere 40 second slices of speech, can distinguish between claims and no claims surgeons. These results underscore the potency of vocal communication in medical interactions,” says the report (Surgery 2002:132:5-9).
In the Harvard University study the team audiotaped surgeons speaking to their patients. The samples of conversation were then rated by 12 volunteers who were blinded to the surgeons' malpractice history.
The doctor in each clip was rated for being warm, anxious and concerned, interested, hostile, sympathetic, professional,