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According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, which surveyed more than 1,600 physicians in 2003 and 2004 for their recently published report, 46% of physicians admitted to not reporting serious medical errors that had been made. “There is a measurable disconnect between what physicians say they think is the right thing to do and what they actually do,” said Eric Campbell of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, who led the survey. Despite the numbers above, 96% of those surveyed said they should report all instances of incompetence or medical errors to the proper authorities. Again showing the disconnect, 93% said they should provide care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, yet only 69% treat uninsured patients.

Perhaps most disturbing, is the fact that only 31% of doctors underwent competency reviews in the past three years despite most agreeing it necessary in order to keep up with the rapid changes in medicine. Dr. James Thompson, CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards, said there very few places where doctors can go to get updated training. Furthermore, medical boards are limited by their own bylaws from aggressively going after doctors who repeatedly commit malpractice and they do not have their own investigators to look into potential problems. All state medical boards can do is respond after there has already been an error and after it has been reported, which we now know doctors are only reporting errors about half of the time.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.

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