Caring For Patients In A Malpractice Crisis: Physician Satisfaction and Quality Of Care

  • July 07, 2004
  • By Michelle M. Mello, David M. Studdert, Catherine M. DesRoches, Jordon Peugh, Kinga Zapert, Troyen A. Brennan, and William M. Sage
The malpractice crisis gripping Pennsylvania has sown widespread discontent among doctors in high-risk specialties, affecting the quality of care their patients receive, according to this report. Malpractice concerns could be harmful to the physician-patient relationship, as the interplay between financial and market pressures changes how physicians approach their work, the study says.

“Physician satisfaction is often neglected or discounted as self-serving in policy debates,” the authors say. “In this paper we outline a framework for understanding why physician satisfaction matters for patient care and what factors influence it. Professional dissatisfaction deserves policy attention if it has damaging consequences for patients.”

Nearly 40 percent of Pennsylvania high-risk specialists surveyed in 2003 were dissatisfied with the practice of medicine, twice as high as the national rate in 1999. Studies have shown that satisfied physicians tend to be more attentive to their patients and have higher levels of satisfaction among their patients. But dissatisfied physicians have been linked to riskier prescribing practices or engaging in “defensive medicine” when treating patients.