New York Times Examines 'Difficult' Doctors' Effect on Patients, Health System. From the Kaiser Network The New York Times on Wednesday examined the "bane of the medical profession" -- problem physicians who "drive away patients who need help" -- and efforts by some medical groups to improve physician-patient relationships. According to the Times, problem physicians "may be arrogant or rude, highhanded or dismissive," and some "have been magnets for malpractice claims." Some medical groups maintain that problem physicians have become more common because of "pressure to see more patients" and that "most problem doctors apparently have no idea of their patients' opinions of them," the Times reports. Howard Beckman, medical director of the Greater Rochester Independent Practice Association, said, "What often happens is that the patient has something they want to tell the doctor, but they're not allowed because of the doctor's style to say what they want to say." Beth Lown, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and former president of the American Academy on Physician and Patient, added, "This goes to the heart of medicine -- the skillful enactment of communication and a truly heartfelt understanding of the patient's circumstances. And it seems to have gotten lost as doctors get involved in medical systems that prioritize speed and technology. Increasingly, people are relying on tests instead of talking to patients." In response, some medical groups, such as RIPA and Tufts Health Plan, have begun to survey patients on physician performance and, in some cases, withhold pay or bonuses from physicians based on the results. In addition, by 2011, all new medical residents will receive instruction on "the basics of being nice," according to the Times. (Kolata , New York Times, 11/30).