Study Identifies High-Risk Characteristics of Physicians Prone to Malpractice

Every year literally millions of patients are negatively affected by improper treatment from a physician or nurse. Statistically, only a small percentage of victims actually recognize the malpractice and then follow through with filing a malpractice claim.

A study on the distribution of malpractice claims recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine has identified several risk factors that make physicians more likely to face claims. The data revealed a number of characteristics that malpractice-prone physicians have in common:

1. Physicians with Previous Claims Found to be High Risk

physicians prone to malpractice.The study looked at a huge pool of data gathered between 2005 and 2014 and found that only 1% of licensed physicians accounted for 32% of all malpractice claims.

Physicians who have already had 2 paid malpractice claims filed against them carry twice the risk of facing another claim, while physicians with 3 claims had a 3x higher risk and those with 6 or more claims carried a 12x risk of subsequent paid claims.

This is a trend that has been noticed by many malpractice lawyers even before this study provided confirmation.

2. Younger Physicians Are Less Likely to Commit Malpractice

Surprisingly, physicians below the age of 35 are 33% less likely to encounter malpractice claims than their older counterparts, despite having fewer years of experience in the field. This seems to suggest that physicians become more prone to lawsuits as they age.

However, it could also be because some of the older physicians have simply lost their zeal and sense of care for their occupation and the proper treatment of patients, or because the younger doctors have more recent medical schooling and are therefore more freshly educated.

3. Some Specialties Carry Double the Risk for Malpractice

The study also showed that some specialties see a higher ratio of claims than others. Apparently, general surgeons, neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and obstetrician-gynecologists carry twice the risk of facing malpractice claims. This is probably due to the fact that these professions carry a higher potential for mishaps or undesirable results overall, as they’re dealing with sensitive surgeries and procedures.

4. Male Physicians Are More Likely to Commit Malpractice

Aside from age, number of previous paid claims, and specialty, the data implies that gender is the next most influential risk factor. Researchers calculated that male physicians have a 38% higher risk of having multiple paid malpractice claims filed against them than female physicians.

So, it appears that the physicians with the highest risk are male doctors over the age of 35 who work in any of the aforementioned specialties and have had to pay multiple malpractice claims in the past.

Using the Statistics to Identify High-Risk Physicians

The group behind the study hopes that the data can be used to help better identify physicians that are prone to malpractice claims. The aim is to improve quality of care and help patients make better decisions pertaining to their healthcare provider selection.