Perceived practice change in Australian doctors as a result of medicolegal concerns

Louise M. Nash*, Merrilyn M. Walton, Michele G. Daly, Patrick J. Kelly, Garry Walter, Elizabeth H. van Ekert, Simon M. Willcock, Christopher C. Tennant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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. 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. Perceived practice changes due to concerns about medicolegal issues, beliefs about medicolegal issues, and the influence of medicolegal issues on both career choices and how doctors relate to their patients. 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. 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-583
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Volume193
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2010

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