Perceived practice change in doctors resulting from medicolegal concerns

January 01, 0001

Perceived practice change in doctors resulting from medicolegal concerns

To aim of this study by researchers from Australia was to explore the perceived impact of medicolegal concerns on how Australian doctors practise medicine and to compare doctors who have experienced a medicolegal matter with those who have not. It consisted of a cross-sectional survey (posted in September 2007, with reminder 4 weeks later) of Australian doctors from all major specialty groups, trainees and a sample of general practitioners who were insured with a medical insurance company. 2999 respondents of 8360 who were sent the survey participated.

Respondents reported changes in practice behaviour due to medicolegal concerns, with 43% of doctors stating that they referred patients more than usual, 55% stating that they ordered tests more than usual, and 11% stating that they prescribed medications more than usual. Respondents also reported improved communication of risk (66%), increased disclosure of uncertainty (44%), developed better systems for tracking results (48%) and better methods for identifying non- attenders (39%) and for auditing clinical practice (35%). Concerns about medicolegal issues led to 33% considering giving up medicine, 32% considering reducing their working hours and 40% considering retiring early. These proportions were all significantly greater for doctors who had previously experienced a medicolegal matter compared with those who had not.

The researchers concluded: "This Australian study, like international studies, confirms that doctors’ concerns about medicolegal issues impact on their practice in a variety of ways. There is a greater perceived impact on those doctors who have previously experienced a medicolegal matter."

These concerns may also lead to a reduction in the primary care physician workforce.

For the full abstract, click here.

MJA 193(10):579-583, 15 November 2010
© The Medical Journal of Australia 2010
Perceived practice change in Australian doctors as a result of medicolegal concerns. Louise M Nash, Merrilyn M Walton, Michele G Daly et al. Correspondence to Louise Nash: [email protected]

Category: HSR. Health Services Research. Keywords: medicolegal, concerns, practice change, cross- sectional survey, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Stephen Wilkinson, Melbourne, Australia. Posted on Global Family Doctor 3 December 2010

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.