Findings from a study recently presented at the AMA/CMA/BMA International Conference on Physician Health showed that although starting from a higher risk category, PHP participants decreased their risk to 20% below that of a non-PHP group after monitoring. Michael Gendel, MD, a Denver psychiatrist and medical director emeritus of the Colorado PHP suggested that “one advantage of PHP participation is increased safety and not just better health”. The findings “strongly suggest the need for early PHP involvement. I’m convinced that developing a relationship with all the people we monitor over time is a source of support and sometimes confrontation, but has a salutary effect. Even among the group simply with behavioral problems, they actually do change when they have a certain amount of accountability and they’re seen on a regular basis and asked about behavioral issues and stresses that precipitate these problems."
Elizabeth Brooks, MD, added that “in monetary terms, from the insurer’s perspective, for every dollar spent by the malpractice insurer, the PHP physicians required about 20% less than their peers.” Interestingly, no association was found between malpractice risk and substance use disorders or mandated care. She further explained that “physicians who presented to the PHP who had a substance use disorder were no more likely to have a medical malpractice claim than those who presented without substance abuse, and the same for those who were mandated for evaluation compared to volunteers.”
Luis Sanchez, MD, director of Physicians Health Services for the Massachusetts Medical Society said that insurance companies cite communication problems as one of the major reasons that physicians get sued, and that “it’s my sense that when those physicians come to us, just being told to come to a physician health program has a helpful effect...awareness of its importance is the first step.”
Excerpted from Medscape Medical News, 2012 Web MD, LLC