Small Percentage of Doctors Make a Third of Malpractice Payments

It seems that a very small number of American doctors are responsible for a big chunk of malpractice payments.

That's the conclusion of a comprehensive study from Stanford University, which determined that just one out of every 100 U.S. doctors is responsible for 32 percent of the malpractice claims that result in payments to patients.

And when a doctor has to pay out one claim, the chances are good that the same physician will soon be paying out on another, the researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research team analyzed 66,426 claims paid against 54,099 doctors from 2005 to 2014. Nearly all were out-of-court settlements, and almost a third of the cases were sparked by a patient's death. About 1 percent of physicians had at least two paid claims against them, and those doctors accounted for 32 percent of paid claims. A total of 126 doctors had more than five paid claims against them. The median payment among all claims was about $205,000.

Doctors who accumulated two lawsuits where money was paid out were twice as likely to be successfully sued for malpractice a third time compared to doctors who only had one paid claim against them. Doctors with more than five paid claims were 12 times more likely to face a subsequent claim.

Physicians under age 35 were two-thirds less likely to have to pay on a malpractice claim after an initial payment. The odds of paying out on a subsequent claim were 38 percent higher among male doctors than female physicians. Doctors trained outside the United States were 12 percent more likely to have to pay out on more than one claim.

The study authors’ recommendation is that if problematic physicians can be identified, it might be possible to get them into programs designed to improve their practice and help them avoid future claims.

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Sourced from: Reuters Health, One percent of U.S. docs responsible for a third of malpractice payments