Counseling of Physicians at High Risk of Malpractice Claims Lowers the Level of Patient Complaints

Early identification and response model for malpractice prevention

From 1996 to 2001, staff at Vanderbilt University Medical Center implemented and evaluated a model program to identify and intervene with health care providers at high risk of generating malpractice claims.

In the project, researchers identified physicians — at Vanderbilt and at four community hospitals in Alabama — who had generated a high level of complaints. They randomly assigned them to either an intervention group that received counseling from mentor physicians or to a control group that received no counseling.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Improving Malpractice Prevention and Compensation Systems national program.

Key Results:

  • Project staff developed a patient complaint analysis system to identify and improve the performance of high-complaint physicians.

Key Findings: Preliminary evaluation findings indicated that:

  • The Vanderbilt high-complaint physicians assigned to the intervention group generally responded constructively to the initial interventions.
  • The complaint index for the physicians in the intervention group improved.

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