Right-wing media have seized on a dubious, three-month old email "survey" that purports to show that physicians are concerned about health care reform and that 46 percent of the primary care doctors surveyed "indicated that they would leave medicine - or try to leave medicine - as a result of health reform." Many media figures have falsely attributed this survey to the New England Journal of Medicine. For example, on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said: "The New England Journal of Medicine has published a report and did a survey, and they said the impact of reform on primary care physicians, 46 percent, they say, feel reform will force them out or make them want to leave medicine."
This is false.
Media Matters for America contacted the New England Journal of Medicine, which confirmed it neither conducted nor published the "survey."
NEJM spokesperson Jennifer Zeis told Media Matters that the study had "nothing to do with the New England Journal of Medicine's original research." She also made clear that the study "was not published by the New England Journal of Medicine," and said that "we are taking steps to clarify the source of the survey."
The "report" that right-wing media are citing actually appeared in Recruiting Physicians Today, which is an employment newsletter produced by "the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine." According to Zeis, that report actually "was written by the Medicus Firm," the medical recruitment firm that conducted the "survey."
Here's how The Medicus Firm describes the "survey" methodology:
"The survey sample was randomly selected from a physician database of thousands. The database has been built over the past eight years by The Medicus Firm (formerly Medicus Partners and The MD Firm) from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, public directories, purchased lists, practice inquiries, training programs, and direct mail responses. The survey was conducted via emails sent directly to physicians."
The Medicus Firm's clients include hospitals and physician groups.
More to come...
Following inquiries from Media Matters, the "NEJM CareerCenter" website has now posted the following statement, making clear that Recruiting Physicians Today is a "free advertiser newsletter" whose content is "produced by physician recruiting firms and other independent groups involved in physician employment" and that Medicus was responsible for conducting and publishing the "survey" in question. (NEJM tells Media Matters that The Medicus Firm "did not pay" to run the report.) From the statement posted on the NEJM CareerCenter website:
Recruiting Physicians Today is a free advertiser newsletter published by the Worldwide Advertising Sales and Marketing Department in the publishing division of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Each issue of the newsletter features research and content produced by physician recruiting firms and other independent groups involved in physician employment.
On December 17, 2009 The Medicus Firm, a national physician search firm based in Dallas and Atlanta, published the results of a survey they conducted with 1,000 physicians regarding their attitudes toward health reform. To read their survey results at The Medicus Firm website, click here.
The opinions expressed in the article linked to above represent those of The Medicus Firm only. That article does not represent the opinions of the New England Journal of Medicine or the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Indeed, The Medicus Firm's write-up of their "survey" touted the supposed importance of physician recruitment firms "[a]fter health reform is passed and implemented":
What does this mean for physician recruiting? It's difficult to predict with absolute certainty, but one consequence is inevitable. After health reform is passed and implemented, physicians will be more in demand than ever before. Shortages could be exacerbated further beyond the predictions of industry analysts. Therefore, the strongest physician recruiters and firms will be in demand. Additionally, hospitals and practices may be forced to rely on unprecedented recruitment methods to attract and retain physicians. "Health reform, even if it's passed in a most diluted form, could be a game-changer for physician recruitment," said Bob Collins, managing partner of The Medicus Firm in Texas. "As competitive as the market is now, we may not even be able to comprehend how challenging it will become after health reform takes effect."
So, in sum, the right-wing media has seized upon what appears to be essentially a promotional document from a physician recruitment firm in order to argue that health care reform will cause physician recruitment and retention problems in the future.
From the March 17 Fox & Friends: