Health Policy

June 18, 2024

Study tallies reports of unprofessional behavior among physicians

Reports from 193 hospitals were analyzed. It turns out that surgeons draw the most complaints.


A new study reported in JAMA Network Open by William Cooper, MD, MPH, Steven Webber, MBChB, and colleagues examined co-worker reports about physicians’ unprofessional behaviors. Reports from 193 hospitals were tracked through the Coworker Concern Observation Reporting System (CORS), which is administered by the Vanderbilt Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy in support of a program of tiered interventions aimed at curbing unprofessional behaviors. Over the five years from 2018 through 2022, the study found that 9.1% of the 35,120 physicians analyzed received at least one co-worker report. Less than 1% of physicians received two or more reports. 

The likelihood of being named in a CORS report varied significantly by specialty area. Surgeons were most likely at 13.8%, followed by nonsurgeon proceduralists, 12.0%, emergency medicine physicians, 10.9%, and nonsurgeon nonproceduralists, 5.6%. 

Previous studies by the Vanderbilt team have shown that patient and co-worker reports of unprofessional behaviors are associated with increased patient complications and malpractice claims and may be a marker for well-being concerns. The authors write that while most physicians maintain professionalism, monitoring the small proportion with multiple co-worker reports and understanding differences in unprofessional behavior reports by specialty provides opportunities to promote accountability and support team members. 

Others on the study from Vanderbilt include Gerald Hickson, MD, Roger Dmochowski, MD, MA, CM, MMHC, Henry Domenico, MS, Jill Gilbert, MD, and William Martinez, MD.