While a clinician’s specialty can affect how likely it is for him or her to be sued (some specialties are sued far more often than others), a study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that clinicians with certain characteristics have a much greater risk of recurrent claims.
The researchers examined data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, including information on more than 66,000 paid claims against approximately 54,000 clinicians from 2005 through 2014.
The results indicated that approximately 1% of all clinicians accounted for 32% of paid claims, and that the risk of recurrence increased with the number of previous paid claims. Among clinicians with paid claims, the study found that 84% incurred only 1 paid claim, 16% had at least 2 paid claims, and 4% had at least 3 paid claims (accounting for 12% of the total claims).
Clinicians who lacked adequate communication, responsiveness, availability, and empathy had an increased risk of being sued. Particularly, the research found that apologies could potentially prevent many medical malpractice claims.
The study also found that the clinicians prone to legal claims were more often male (82%) and older. Still, the biggest predictor of claim-prone clinicians was whether they’d had a prior claim in the past. The authors concluded that “a small number of physicians with distinctive characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large number of paid malpractice claims.”