Friday, November 11, 2011

Survey: Government Physicians Practice Less Defensive Medicine Than Private Sector Peers

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ATLANTA, GA (July 6, 2011) - Physicians working under contract with the federal government practice less defensive medicine than their private sector peers, according to a new survey by Atlanta-based clinical staffing organization, Jackson Healthcare.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 21,000 physicians and surgeons are employed by the federal government in a full-time or part-time capacity. Of those under contract with the federal government, their scope includes the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Justice (Federal Bureau of Prisons), U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps.

Forty-eight percent of government-contracted physicians report practicing defensive medicine. This is notably less than the private sector.

Similar studies of private sector physicians by Gallup and Jackson Healthcare in 2010 found that 73 percent and 92 percent of private sector physicians, respectively, admitted to practicing defensive medicine. Of the physician respondents who have worked in both the government and private sectors, 62 percent reported practicing more defensive medicine in the private sector than in the government sector. Thirty-four percent reported practicing the same amount in both.

According to Jackson Healthcare Chairman and CEO, Richard L. Jackson, “Physicians working for the federal government feel less personally threatened by medical malpractice lawsuits than their counterparts in the private sector.”

Jackson said that the Federal Tort Claims Act offers government-contracted physicians protection against personal financial liability, whereas private sector physicians work under the constant shadow of lawsuit lottery suits.

One government physician respondent wrote that there was “less fear of malpractice in the federal system.” He believed he had protection since punitive damages can’t be made against the government and the patient population is less likely to sue.

The survey also found that physicians working for the Department of Defense reported the least amount of defensive medicine, compared with physicians working for the Veterans Administration and in the private sector.

“The root driver of defensive medicine, and its inflation of our overall healthcare costs, is the fact that physicians in the private sector are the only physicians in the world who are personally financially liable for mistakes,” says Jackson.

Jackson is currently working on federal and state-specific solutions that protect patients, while reducing defensive medicine. Further details of this survey can be found at

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