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Striking Patterns in Medical Malpractice

Posted in Blog, Medical Malpractice on March 04, 2016


A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine late last month details some interesting findings about patterns that have been established in medical malpractice claims throughout the United States. The research was conducted by Stanford University and the University of Melbourne.

According to the fascinating study, a mere handful of ‘like’ physicians (approximately 1% nationally) are responsible for 32% of medical malpractice settlements and verdicts that were paid over a decade’s time. The research followed over 65,000 claims settled against more than 50,000 physicians between early 2005 and late 2014.

Recurring medical malpractice claims are extremely frightening for two groups in particular:  the patient population and the insurance companies that are providing coverage for the accused physicians. Interestingly, the risk of recurring medical malpractice claims was found to vary by a doctor’s specialty with the lowest risk of recurrence for psychiatrists and pediatricians. The risk for recurring medical malpractice claims among male doctors was found to be a whopping 40% higher than the risk of recurring medical malpractice claims for female physicians.  Additionally, younger physicians were significantly less likely than older physicians to be involved in a medical malpractice suit.

As is true in other matters, the best predictor of future behavior in the doctors studied was their past behavior. The greater the number of claims each doctor was faced with prior to the study, the greater number they ended up incurring throughout the study.

The research team hopes that their findings will aid hospitals and insurance companies in better understanding high-risk groups of doctors (high-risk being defined as physicians consistently found more likely to be involved in recurring medical malpractice claims throughout their years practicing). The hope would be that high-risk physicians could then be flagged for targeted training and evaluation to prevent claims from piling up in the future.

To read more about the study, visit the New England Journal of Medicine’s website overview. To read more about medical malpractice claims, read our medical malpractice FAQ page.



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