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Med Care. 1989 Jan;27(1):16-24.

Practice changes in response to the malpractice litigation climate. Results of a Maryland physician survey.

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  • 1Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.


Data from a 1987 survey of Maryland physicians in three specialties (internal medicine, family or general practice, and obstetrics-gynecology) were used to study the types of changes physicians have made in their practices during the last 2 years as a result of the current malpractice litigation climate. Overall, 51% reported making some type of practice change. The practice changes that physicians reported reflect both risk-reduction (e.g., increased use of tests) and risk-avoidance (e.g., cutting back high-risk patients) strategies, although risk-reduction actions were reported more frequently. Raising patient fees was also reported. Specialty predicts whether or not physicians make each type of change; in particular, obstetrician-gynecologists are more likely to report practice changes of all types. Prior litigation experience does not, in general, predict practice changes. The implications of the types of changes reported for access to care and costs of care were considered.

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