Focus Groups Provide Insights

Celia Smith, CCMEP, Director, Continuing Medical Education

Physicians Insurance has historically used focus groups to gain insight into factors that influence trial outcomes. Over the past year we have also used focus groups to increase our knowledge of the unique challenges faced by different medical specialties. Together with claims data and input from our physician committees and stakeholders in the medical community, focus groups are a vital resource as we develop CME and risk management services of the highest relevance to our members.

The Focus Group Process
Invitations to participate in a focus group meeting were sent earlier this year to a random and demographically diverse group of our members practicing in Pathology and Ophthalmology. Twelve physicians in each group were selected. They recently met for a three-hour discussion with a professional focus group facilitator at the office of Dodge Blount & Hunter LLP.

Andrea Blount, PhD, posed questions to each group on the topics of patient-safety challenges, clinical risks specific to their area of practice, liability concerns, ideas for education, and how Physicians Insurance might better meet their needs. The discussion led to the kind of insights that occur when individuals share a common experience, with one idea sparking another. Conversation was animated, convivial, and productive.

Foremost concerns expressed by the Pathology focus group included being sued for someone else’s mistake, and communication with ordering physicians. “Some referring doctors act like reading the slides is black and white,” said one participant. “Like the words for the diagnosis are printed on the slide somewhere.” The Ophthalmology group voiced apprehension about wrong-site surgery and communication challenges that include language barriers, elderly patients, and achieving patient compliance. Both groups expressed appreciation for Physicians Insurance’s risk management telephone consultation, and stated a preference for interactive learning and specialty-specific online CME.

Next Steps
Insights from the focus groups conducted last year for Obstetrics, Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, and Radiology have formed the basis for current programs and those in development. An outgrowth of the feedback from these focus groups has been our popular simulation training. Another outgrowth has been an expansion of our online CME program at

Insights from the most recent meetings will form the foundation for a comprehensive online survey for Pathology and Ophthalmology members. The survey results will direct content for education and practice tools to be developed over the next year.