When it comes to the likelihood of being sued for malpractice, radiologists have less to fear than their colleagues in many other medical specialties, reveals a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and several other U.S. institutions, the study ranks radiologists in 18th place among 25 medical specialties in terms of their potential to be hit with a malpractice lawsuit. It also points to a lower-than-expected volume of payouts for malpractice claims.
“Each year during the study period, 7.4% of all physicians had a malpractice claim, with 1.6% having a claim leading to a payment (i.e., 78% of all claims did not result in payments to claimants)," the researchers write. They note that the percentage of physicians facing a claim each year included 19.1% in neurosurgery, 18.9% in thoracic-cardiovascular surgery, 15.3% in general surgery, 7.2% in radiology, 5.2% in family medicine, 3.1% in pediatrics, and 2.6% in psychiatry. Compared to diagnostic radiology, the only specialties showing lower percentages of practitioners being sued were ophthalmology, nephrology, pathology, dermatology, family general practice, pediatrics, and psychiatry.
In conducting the study, the researchers took into account U.S. malpractice data from 1991 through 2005 for all physicians who were covered by a single large professional liability insurer with a nationwide client base. The sample encompassed 40,916 physicians and 233,738 physician-years of coverage and was divided into three periods to investigate variances in claim rates varied over time for high- and low-risk specialties alike.
To characterize the size of malpractice payments, the researchers computed mean and median payments and extracted awards greater than $1 million to suppress outliers. They then analyzed the data to estimate the cumulative career malpractice risk per individual specialty.
To read the full text of the study, click here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1012370.