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Inside Medical Liability

Third Quarter 2020




Where Are We Now?

The verdict on the real long-term impact of COVID-19 on the world economy, on healthcare, and on patients and healthcare professionals is far from final.

By Susan Beach


In the near term, U.S. public opinion research offers insight regarding today’s status quo.

In many ways, the COVID-19 landscape has produced changes that would have been unthinkable even a year ago. Across the board—economically and medically—revolutionary changes have occurred. Many are terrible, including loss of life and income. Others, including the rapid adoption of telehealth and a new awareness of the need for medical liability protections, are surprisingly welcome.

From a public health standpoint, the numbers are grim. Worldwide, more than 20 million COVID-19 infections have been documented along with more than 730,000 deaths, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control as of Aug. 11, 2020. This public health toll has also exacted a severe economic toll in America, as half of all Americans surveyed (50%) live in households where someone has lost employment income since March 13. More than a quarter (26%) have experienced housing insecurity, including missing last month’s rent/mortgage payment or not being confident they can make the next one, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and a NBC News/Wall Street Journal national survey, both conducted in July 2020.

In addition to financial pressures, 41% of those surveyed have delayed medical care in the last four weeks because of COVID-19. For some, telemedicine has filled the void. Less than 10 years ago, 10% of survey respondents said they had used telemedicine; in April 2020, that number had risen to 31%. Of course, this explosive growth in telemedicine was driven by constraints on visits to doctors because of coronavirus (54%). However, it seems that rising acceptance and use of telehealth is likely to continue past the end of the pandemic. Patients liked what they experienced—92% said they were satisfied with the care they received. What’s also different is that physicians have embraced it. An American Academy of Family Physicians survey revealed that in 2020, 57% of physicians have a more favorable impression of telehealth that they had in the past, 64% are more comfortable using telehealth, and 61% expect to use telehealth more in a post-COVID world.

It may not be all that surprising that in recent public opinion polling, three-fourths of Americans view healthcare providers favorably—the highest support in history according to Bill McInturff, co-founder and managing partner at Public Opinion Strategies. McInturff, who along with Hart Research Associates. conducts the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll, recently joined an MPL Association PAC event to present a look at the U.S. political landscape and issues in healthcare.

According to new information from Public Opinion Strategies polling, when asked how trustworthy respondents thought a series of sources were for providing accurate information regarding the coronavirus outbreak, doctors and nurses topped the list, with 86% ranking the group as trustworthy, followed by scientists (78%). It’s also interesting to note that a majority of those surveyed (79%) expressed support for proposals being considered by the U.S. Congress that would protect healthcare providers (like doctors and nurses) and hospitals from lawsuits related to coronavirus.

Clearly, the pandemic may have moved public opinion on medical liability protections. Capitalizing on those more favorable views, The MPL Association continues to collaborate with stakeholders to advance the cause of protecting frontline healthcare professionals from being distracted by COVID-19-related lawsuits. While there is no way to know for how long COVID-19 will affect America, the MPL Association will continue to represent members and provide resources for organizations that represent and support healthcare heroes around the world.



Susan Beach is Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the MPL Association.