Why do physicians do medicolegal?
Doctors are, well, doctors. Their training and work experience shape their approach to problems and socialize them to view issues though the clinical prism. However, the broad education of a physician also prepares him or her to address a variety of other questions in medicine in an effective and a comprehensive manner.
Many physicians have, in addition to their clinical skills, well developed ability to reason, to analyze, to write well, to communicate and to express clearly complex ideas. Many physicians enjoy being able to use these skills in the medical arena. Many doctors look forward to the opportunities to see and experience aspects of healthcare with which they are not familiar and which they have not previously encountered.
Medical legal consulting is one such area. Doctors, of course, are valued as experts in their particular areas of medical specialization. However, by performing medical legal consulting they have an opportunity to shape the legal argument and even to redress many inequities within the healthcare system. Doctors know about and often encounter shoddy care, outright uncaring and unpreparedness that plague our medical system and they have experienced many episodes of these factors causing injury and harm. The opportunity to redress some of these injustices is profoundly satisfying to many health care professionals. Remember, you do not take a case in which you do not believe. Attorneys appreciate honesty, for they do not want to spend hundreds of hours and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on pursing cases that do not have merit.
Many doctors would like to consult but don’t know how to get started. Referral services credential a potential witness, match his or her expertise with the case referrals that they receive, and enable the physician to confidently perform the functions of an expert. The staff should always be available and knowledgeable, and be committed to patiently and professionally ensure that the first contact of the expert and the attorney retaining their services is satisfying and productive.
The best referral source does not meddle in the relationship between the attorney and the expert; however, its staff is available to troubleshoot and to mediate any issues and to provide information on how things are usually done. This it does in a pleasant and in effective manner. It does not take it upon themselves to negotiate down expert fees and they charge their fee on top of the usual expert fee, thus ensuring that the physician is fairly and appropriately compensated.
To the physician expert who is ”on the fence”, I would say that the way to start is though a good referral service. Such an agency would have to be a patient, experienced, and professional advocate who will ensure that the initial contact and ongoing relationship with the retaining attorney is productive, effective, and effortless. This assures that the expert can do his or her work, be appropriately compensated, and be able to concentrate on the medical analysis of a case, which is, after all, the task for which he or she is retained.
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