Doctors diagnose their flaws

February 10, 2012

A survey of almost 1,891 physicians across the country finds that for some doctors, honesty is not always the best policy.

Approximately one third of participating physicians reported they did not completely agree that they should disclose medical errors to patients (20% of whom admitting they were afraid of being sued for malpractice).  TIME Healthland reports that 40 percent felt they did not need to disclose financial ties to drug or device companies.

In the past year, 55 percent of doctors said they had been more positive about a patient’s prognosis than warranted. Ten percent reported telling patients something that was not true.

Dr. Lisa Lezzioni, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author says:

“The finding that 55 percent had described a prognosis in a more positive manner than was warranted is pretty significant…They may not want to worry patients, or there may be cultural reasons why it feels inappropriate.”

According to The Huffington Post, the study notes that not enough training, insecurity over the accuracy of a prognosis, and lack of time may also play a role.

This study is published in the journal Health Affairs.

Survey finds one-third of doctors do not report impaired or incompetent colleagues

July 16, 2010

A new survey by the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital finds that one-third of doctors did not report peers that displayed incompetent or impaired behavior due to substance abuse or mental health problems.

The results were based on responses from 1,891 doctors, ranging from cardiologists to psychiatrists. Out of those responses, 17 percent or 321 doctors had “direct, personal knowledge of a physician who was impaired or incompetent to practice medicine” HealthDay reports. Two-thirds, or 214, of those physicians reported the suspected colleague.

Doctors who kept silent gave reasons such as believing that another physician would take care of the reporting, fear that the physician would find out who had reported them, and a lack of confidence that the physician would actually suffer any consequences as a result of the report.

The study does not address what exactly happened to the physicians that had been turned in. Instead, the authors focus on recommending improvements to the reporting system, such as strengthening confidentiality protections, as well as letting physicians know the outcome of their report.

Here is WebMD’s breakdown of the results:

  • 64% agreed with the professional commitment to report doctors who are significantly impaired or otherwise incompetent to practice medicine.
  • 69% reported being prepared to deal effectively with impaired colleagues in their practice.
  • 64% reported being prepared to deal with incompetent colleagues.
  • 17% said they had direct knowledge of a peer incompetent to practice in their hospital, group, or practice.
  • 67% of this 17% reported the colleague to relevant authorities.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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