TUESDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- A large survey of American doctors has found that more than one-third would hesitate to turn in a colleague they thought was incompetent or compromised by substance abuse or mental health problems.
However, most physicians agreed in principle that those in charge should be told about "bad" physicians.
As it stands, said Catherine M. DesRoches, assistant professor at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, "self-regulation is our best alternative, but these findings suggest that we really need to strengthen that. We don't have a good alternative system."
DesRoches is lead author of the study, which appears in the July 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The American Medical Association (AMA) and other professional medical organizations hold that "physicians have an ethical obligation to report" impaired colleagues. Several states also have mandatory reporting laws, according to background information in the article.
To assess how the current system of self-regulation is doing, these researchers surveyed almost 1,900 anesthesiologists, cardiologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists and family medicine, general surgery and internal medicine doctors.
Physicians were asked if, within the past three years, they had had "direct, personal knowledge of a physician who was impaired or incompetent to practice medicine" and if they had reported that colleague.
Of 17 percent of doctors who had direct knowledge of an incompetent colleague, only two-thirds actually reported the problem, the survey found.
This despite the fact that 64 percent of all respondents agreed that physicians should report impaired colleagues.
Almost 70 percent of physicians felt they were "prepared" to report such a problem, the study aut
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