Doctors Discuss Malpractice

Physician's Money Digest, March15 2005, Volume 12, Issue 5

The AMA has identified 20 states that are in themidst of a medical malpractice crisis (ie, stateswhere liability insurance rates are so high that manydoctors are consequently leaving the state or retiringfrom medical practice).

Negative View

A recent survey by the physician recruitment firmof Jackson & Harris (www.jacksonandharris.com)explored how the attitudes of doctors in those crisisstates differed between physicians in states wheresome type of malpractice reform is underway anddoctors in states that are considered neutral on themalpractice issue.

Not surprisingly, doctors in crisis states generallyhad a far more negative view of the situation facingthem than those in the other states. More than twoof every five doctors in crisis states have thoughtabout going without malpractice insurance, forexample, compared with less than 25% of the doctorsin reform states and 30% of the doctors in neutralstates. And when asked whether they hadthought about moving to a state that had lowermalpractice premiums, 60% of the doctors in crisisstates said they had, as opposed to only 28% of thedoctors in reform states.

Malpractice Thoughts

Questions about the rise in malpractice premiumsalso returned predictable results. Over the past 5years, 38% of the doctors in crisis states have seenmalpractice premiums more than double, while only14% of the doctors in reform states and 20% of doctorsin neutral states have had that kind of increase.Similarly, more than 75% of the doctors in crisis statessay that they have changed the way they practicemedicine because of the malpractice environment,often by eliminating high-risk procedures. Doctors inreform states have done the same, but less frequently.Still, more than 58% report changes in the waythey care for patients.

In addition, two thirds of the doctors in crisis stateshave considered looking at hospital employment forthe greater protection against malpractice litigationthey would enjoy. Somewhat surprisingly, more thanhalf of the doctors in reform states say the same.

On some issues, the doctors are in agreement, nomatter where they practice. For example, more than80% of doctors agree that malpractice reform shouldbe a national issue, with nationwide standards beingenacted at the federal level.