Objective: To examine the causal effects of doctor-patient relations and the severity of a medical outcome on medical patient perceptions and malpractice intentions in the event of an adverse medical outcome.
Design: Randomized between-subjects experimental design. Patients were given scenarios depicting interactions between an obstetric patient and her physician throughout the patient's pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Participants: One hundred twenty-eight postpartum obstetric patients were approached for participation, of whom 104 completed the study. Main outcome measures Patients' perceptions of physician competence and intentions to file a malpractice claim.
Results: Positive physician communication behaviors increased patients' perceptions of physician competence and decreased malpractice claim intentions toward both the physician and the hospital. A more severe outcome increased only patients' intentions to sue the hospital.
Conclusion: These results provide empiric evidence for a direct, causal effect of the doctor-patient relationship on medical patients' treatment perceptions and malpractice claim intentions in the event of an adverse medical outcome.