AMA malpractice survey reveals docs most at risk

Statistically speaking, 95 out of every 100 physicians practicing in the United States will be sued for medical malpractice sometime in their career, according to a report released yesterday from the American Medical Association (AMA).

In addition, the AMA's 2007-2008 Physician Practice Information survey of 5,825 physicians across 42 specialties revealed:

  • Nearly 61 percent of physicians ages 55 and over have been sued.
  • Male physicians were twice as likely to be sued (47.5 percent) as female physicians (23.9 percent) due to a variety of factors, including men's concentration in higher-risk specialties and women's fairly recent entry into the physician work force.
  • The number of claims per 100 physicians was more than five times greater for general surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists than it was for pediatricians and psychiatrists.
  • Physicians who provided most of their care in solo or single-specialty group practices were more likely to be sued (45 percent) than physicians who primarily worked in hospitals and multispecialty group practices (40 and 37 percent, respectively).
  • Practice owners were more likely to be sued (47.5 percent) than employees (33.4 percent).

Researchers also noted that busier physicians (those with higher relative value units) were sued more frequently, partly because higher levels of clinical activity increased their risk exposure. However, the authors cautioned that "a high number of RVUs might also be indicative of less time per patient and ‘less attention to interpersonal and/or technical aspects of care,' and affect risk management activity through that avenue as well."

The report also pointed out that the physician prevails 90 percent of the time in cases that go to trial, but that even the 65 percent of claims that are dropped or dismissed contribute to increased health costs. According to the report, average defense costs per claim range from a low of over $22,000 among claims that are dropped or dismissed to a high of over $100,000 for cases that go to trial.

To learn more:
- read the press release from the American Medical Association
- here's the report

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