Media falsely attribute doctor survey to New England Journal of Medicine

Conservative media figures and outlets have falsely claimed a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) survey found that 46 percent of primary care physicians would consider leaving their profession if Democrats' health care reform bill passes. In fact, NEJM says that the 3-month-old email “survey” was not published in or conducted by NEJM.

NEJM spokeswoman confirms: Survey has nothing to do with the “original research” published in The New England Journal of Medicine

Media Matters for America contacted The New England Journal of Medicine and received confirmation from spokesperson Jennifer Zeis that the study had “nothing to do with the New England Journal of Medicine's original research.” Zeis also made clear that the study “was not published by the New England Journal of Medicine.”

The Medicus Firm, a medical recruitment firm, conducted the survey

The Medicus Firm conducted the survey in December 2009. The Medicus Firm, a Dallas- and Atlanta-based firm that recruits and places physicians in jobs, was responsible for conducting the survey. It issued a press release about the results on December 17, 2009.

Article actually appeared in employment newsletter. The report appeared in Recruiting Physicians Today, an employment newsletter produced by Massachusetts Medical Society, “the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine.” The report also appeared on the NEJM “CareerCenter” website, but was taken down on March 17. Zeis also said that this article “was written by The Medicus Firm.” Both versions of the write-up clearly indicate that the source for the survey is The Medicus Firm and provide contact information for its media relations department.

NEJM CareerCenter website: “Recruiting Physicians Today is a free advertiser newsletter,” and the survey report represents opinions “of The Medicus Firm only.” The report written by The Medicus Firm about its survey appeared on the NEJM CareerCenter website, which “offers a full suite of physician job searching tools,” and “provides physician-employment articles in the resource center, offering helpful articles on physician careers, physician job-hunting tips, physician employment trends and more." The report was taken down from the CareerCenter on March 17 and replaced with the following message:

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.

Methodology involved emailing doctors in The Medicus Firm's database. The NEJM CareerCenter article indicated that "[t]he 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."

In “survey” write-up, physician recruitment firm touted the importance of physician recruitment firms "[a]fter health reform is passed and implemented." After discussing the results of its “survey,” the article added:

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.”

Media falsely attribute survey to The New England Journal of Medicine

Bill O'Reilly: Survey was “published by The New England Journal of Medicine, a prestigious magazine.” On the March 16 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly said, “A new survey published by The New England Journal of Medicine, a prestigious magazine, says that nearly half of primary care doctors in America could leave the medical profession if Obamacare is passed.” After citing statistics from The Medicus Firm survey, O'Reilly said, “I believe the study in The New England Journal of Medicine, because I've talked to enough doctors myself to know there's no great enthusiasm for Obamacare in the medical community, even here in liberal New York City.”

Kilmeade: NEJM “published a report and did a survey” that found doctors “feel reform will force them out.” On the March 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said: “Well, if this does in fact pass, no matter how it does pass, what would it mean for the medical profession, those who spend so much money, oftentimes go way in debt, just to be doctors for you, not to be rich. You don't do the -- you don't become a doctor to be rich, you know, now especially. How do they feel about it? Well, 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.” NEJM “polled health-care providers.” On, blogger Ed Morrissey wrote: “And you thought wait times were long now. The New England Journal of Medicine, hardly a bastion of conservative thought, polled health-care providers to determine their reaction to ObamaCare, and discovered that it has many doctors looking for the exits. Almost half of all general-practice doctors would feel compelled to leave medicine altogether if it passes.”

Hannity guest attributes study to NEJM. On the March 16 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity asked Milton Wolf, a radiologist who says he is President Obama's second cousin, “Will this plan that they're now pushing, and I think in a very corrupt way, do you believe this will harm and -- if you believe so, how greatly will it harm our health care system?” Wolf replied: “We just learned from The New England Journal of Medicine that a significant percentage of doctors would consider leaving -- seriously consider leaving the profession if this went through. We will actually have less providers if this went through to try to take on these extra burdens, and there would be no choice but to ration care. They've already built it into this plan."

Marc Siegel: “A new study in The New England Journal of Medicine says that one-third of physicians would consider quitting or retiring early if this goes through.” On the March 16 edition of Fox News' Your World, Fox News contributor Dr. Marc Siegel stated: “First of all, the [American Medical Association] is a bureaucratic organization that doesn't represent practicing doctors. A new study in The New England Journal of Medicine says that one-third of physicians would consider quitting or retiring early if this goes through.”