Some time ago, about 200 physicians met one evening for a conference. This is not newsworthy. Medical education is deeply engrained in our professional culture. Indeed, physicians are committed to lifelong learning and self-improvement. To stay current, we read several medical journals and professional communications, we attend lectures at our hospitals, we engage in on-line educational pursuits, we learn from colleagues and we travel to medical conferences. Conscientious physicians devote many hours to educational activities each week
On this night, however, we were not learning about new treatments for heart disease or diabetes. We were not learning about emerging strategies to diagnose cancer at a curable stage. There was no talk about new techniques to reduce hospital infections or other preventable complications. We were not even learning about “soft” subjects, such as medical ethics or doctor-patient communication issues.
We were together at the strong urging of our medical malpractice company who would discount our malpractice premium if we attended this evening soiree. So, 200 or so physicians were listening to lectures entitled, Avoiding Litigation Traps and Becoming Litigation Savvy. I’ve attended these annual seminars for several years.
The lectures are interesting and useful. In an indirect way, they serve to protect patients and improve medical quality. But, their true purpose is to minimize our legal vulnerability.
Is this how our patients want us to spend our educational time? Do they want us to learn about how to respond to sneaky questions at depositions? Do they want us to spend time learning about the legal discovery process? Do they want us to be focused on protecting our legal interests?
As busy as we physicians are, shouldn’t every minute available for our education be devoted to becoming better doctors?
This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.