As many of you know, burnout is an increasingly serious problem for physicians, affecting over 50 percent of clinicians in some studies conducted before our current COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, in an interesting study, one of every four physicians is looking to do some non-clinical work, in part, to ease the stress of today’s clinical practice.
In one survey just completed, more than 48 percent of physicians reported that since the COVID-19 crisis, they felt it necessary to rethink their careers or practice seriously.
There is a unique non-clinical consulting opportunity any physician can learn to do full-time, as part of your existing practice, or in lieu of retiring. I’m Dr. Armin Feldman, and I’m a full-time medical-legal consultant in legal cases. A little over 13 years ago, I started and now, through the years, have been refining a new subspecialty of forensic medicine. I’ve trained over 1,600 physicians to do this consulting work.
When doctors and lawyers think about lawyers hiring doctors, they only think of one thing: Hiring doctors to be expert witnesses. It’s important to know, you won’t act as a medical expert, and you won’t participate in medical malpractice cases. There is a big difference between a medical-legal consultant and a medical expert witness in legal matters. In fact, they are two completely different things.
All of this work is pre-litigation/pre-trial, and the work is not specialty specific.
This work is designed to help attorneys settle cases for better value with less attorney time, get the appropriate medical care for their clients, and help attorneys negotiate the medical issues in their cases.
The work is also really rewarding. You will help people who would not have otherwise been afforded the medical consultation help they desperately need. In fact, I always work for the “little guy” going up against the insurance companies. Often the injured person’s own insurance company denying legitimate injuries and accidents.
In these areas of the law — personal injury and Workers’ Compensation — approximately 9 out of 10 cases settle. In other words, the cases are negotiated, and then a settlement is reached, and the case never goes to trial. So anything we can do as physician medical-legal consultants, as opposed to medical experts, to help attorneys negotiate and settle cases for increased case value with less attorney time and help with the medical issues in the case is very, very appealing to many attorneys. Actually, to most attorneys.
In fact, I’m very rarely asked about my specialty. Attorneys are much more interested in knowing if my reports, medical opinions, and other services will help them to better negotiate and settle their cases.
Obviously, if the case is going to court in that one out of ten cases for which you’ll consult that doesn’t settle, the attorney will do depositions and go to trial. The attorney will need medical experts every area of injury. However, this work involves approximately 9 of 10 cases that are negotiated and settled. That is, where the attorney needs well-reasoned and researched medical opinions, reports, and other services that any good physician can learn to provide.
There are over a dozen specific services you can offer. By way of example, one of the services I perform most is providing comprehensive medical summary reports. Medical summary reports are just that, a complete review of the case including my medical opinions based on my review of the records, my interview with the client of the attorney and my review of the pertinent medical literature. Far and away, the reason attorneys have me prepare medical summary reports is to include the report as part of their settle demand letter or package. As part of a settlement letter, the attorney needs to describe damages, including the medical conditions caused by the accident or injury. Many attorneys write this section of the demand themselves. So in a settlement letter, the attorney will write a section on damages and have my medical summary report concerning the medical damages, including my medical opinions in the settlement demand letter.
Another service you can offer is independent medical exam observation and writing IME rebuttal reports. After the IME report comes back and is read by the attorney as unfavorable to the case, and if my opinion is such, I’m often asked to write an IME rebuttal report. I base my reports on my review of the medical records, my interview with the client of the attorney, my observation of the history and physical in the IME and my review of the pertinent medical literature. These reports are often used to get needed medical care for the injured person that has been denied.
These services are only two of many services you can perform to help injured individuals.
If you want to continue to use your hard-earned medical knowledge, help people, and want a non-clinical option, then consider looking into doing this new kind of medical-legal consulting.
Armin Feldman is a medical consultant to attorneys.
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