New Study Finds that Doctors Do Not Always Report Incompetent Colleagu

Posted on Jul 24, 2010
The results of a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital were made public earlier this month. The study looked at whether doctors report other doctors who are incompetent or impaired by substance abuse.

The study found that more than 30 percent of the two thousand physicians who responded to the survey did not believe that they should have a responsibility to report incompetent or impaired doctors, despite the fact that most professional medical organizations require doctors to do so, and despite the fact that patients’ safety may be at risk.

The study also found that 17 percent of the doctors surveyed had encountered an impaired or incompetent doctor during the last three years, but only two thirds of them actually turned the doctor in.

The three most commonly stated reasons for failure to report an incompetent doctor were: (1) a belief that someone else would take care of the problem; (2) a belief that nothing would happen if the doctor were reported; and (3) fear of retribution.

Doctors did indicate that they were more likely to report impaired doctors than incompetent doctors because incompetence is a subjective judgment. Medical organizations are now encouraging doctors to report both impairment and incompetence in order to protect patients in the future.

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