Researchers from the Monterey Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Institute have found that socioeconomically disadvantaged patients tend to sue their physicians less often.
The findings, published recently in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, run contrary to the common perception among physicians that the poor sue their physicians more frequently, according to a Springer news release.
Orthopedics Today editorial board member Ramon L. Jimenez, MD, and his team suggested in the release that the myth may exist because of unconscious bias which could potentially manifest as a tendency for physicians to treat poor patients differently — or a reluctance to treat them at all.
According to the study abstract, Jimenez and his team performed a review of medical and social literature, identifying studies that investigated differences in litigation rates and any related medical malpractice claims originating from socioeconomically disadvantaged patients when compared to patients from other walks of life.
The results of the team’s analysis, according to the release, show that low-income patients sue their physicians less often than other patient groups. This was in part attributed within the study to a more limited access to legal resources, as well as a payment system in medical malpractice claims requiring an advance on funds for case litigation.
With regard to unconscious bias against poor patients, the authors noted physicians may be concerned about reimbursement. These physicians might consciously or unconsciously presume poor patients are more likely to sue, the release noted.
“Helping doctors to become more culturally competent — ie, able to treat or relate better to a patient from a different race, ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation — may help overcome these misperceptions,” Jimenez wrote. “In addition, improving education and training for the delivery of culturally competent care, and empowering patients to play more meaningful roles in their healthcare decisions are proven strategies that can positively impact health disparities, the quality of medical care, physician satisfaction and the incidence of medical malpractice litigation.”
- McClellan FM, White III AA, Jimenez RL, Fahmy S. Do poor people sue doctors more frequently? Confronting unconscious bias and the role of cultural competency. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2012. doi: 10.1007/s11999-012-2254-2.
OrthoSuperSite.com on Twitter