The majority (55 percent) of U.S. physicians have been sued, and nearly half of them more than once, according to the results of Medscape’s Physician Malpractice Report 2017. The survey of 4,000 doctors across more than 25 specialties was published online today. This marks a 15 percent increase over Medscape’s 2013 Malpractice Report. The Malpractice Report is located here.
Specialists, particularly surgeons (85 percent) and OB/Gyns (85 percent), were far more likely to be sued than primary care doctors; psychiatrists (29 percent) and dermatologists (28 percent) were the specialists named least frequently in lawsuits. Accordingly, malpractice insurance premiums range from nearly $200,000 annually for a New York City OB/Gyn to about $38,000 for an internist.
Failure to diagnose a patient’s condition or complications arising from treatment were the most common reasons that patients sued.
However, malpractice suits took most physicians by surprise (58 percent) and an almost equal number (51 percent) said the experience changed their attitudes towards patients — with 26 percent saying they no longer trust patients or treat them differently, i.e., practicing ‘defensive medicine’; 6 percent left the practice setting and 3 percent changed insurers.)
While the survey found most suits were dismissed or settled before trial, it also found being sued takes a toll. One-third of those surveyed spent more than 40 hours preparing their defense and an almost equal number took three to five years to resolve their case. The majority of physicians cited better communication with patients as a way to reduce the number of malpractice suits, along with medical screening panels to determine the merits of a suit and caps on non-economic damages.