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Conservative opponents to health reform have been pushing a recent poll ostenibly conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine which claims that doctors are indeed opposed to health reform. This even got play on Fox News by Bill O’Reilly a couple days ago:

This seems to contradict an earlier poll by NEJM that found that doctors actually did support health care reform, including both public and private options, by an overwhelming majority of 69%. In fact, that NEJM poll found that support dropped to only 27% when the public option was removedn and only private options remained.

So what’s the deal with this new NEJM poll? Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t actually by NEJM – but rather by a physician recruitment firm, The Medicus Firm, and published in Recruiting Physicians Today, a free advertiser newsletter dedicated to physician employment headhunting. NEJM strongly distanced itself from any affiliation with this poll:

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 survey – published on The Medicus Firm’s website – was not a conducted using rigorous polling methodology, but instead on email from a marketing database:

“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.”

In addition to the statement given to Media Matters by NEJM, they have also posted this on their own website to emphasize that they had nothing to do with this survey:

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… 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.

So, in summary: NEJM actually scientifically polled doctors via mail and found support for reform. A marketing firm involved in physician recruiting, did an email survey using a (totally unscientific) marketing database that found a lack of support. But even in that survey, Medicus notes:

It’s probably not likely that nearly half of the nation’s physicians will suddenly quit practicing at once… Skeptics may suspect that physicians exaggerate their intent to leave medicine due to health reform. Some experts point to the malpractice crisis of years ago, when many doctors also expressed a desire to leave medicine. Some did quit; many did not.

(…) Do physicians feel that health reform is necessary? The survey indicates that doctors do want change. Only a very small portion of respondents – about four percent – feel that no reform is needed.

Yes, there probably are a lot of physicians that are nervous about reform – especially if those physicians are misinformed about what it will entail. But reliable polling of physicians still shows broad support for reform, because it’s the doctors on the front lines who see the damage done every day by the unsustainable course we are on. This is why the American medical Association continues to support reform this time around, despite its past opposition.

Incidentally, this is a perfect example of how Fox News misinforms its readers. Will Fox run a corretion? Doubtful. Meanwhile, NPR covered the authentic NEJM poll – so which news source gives you “fair and balanced” news? You decide.

Related: From DailyKos, here’s a video that sums up the episode:

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