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Study: Lion's share of malpractice claims linked to only a few doctors

If asked to identify what characteristics we believed physicians who are more prone to committing medical malpractice would share, there's a very good chance that most of us would list such items as inexperience and youth as a few of the traits of a potentially dangerous doctor.

According to the results of a groundbreaking study performed by researchers at Stanford University, however, we would actually be very far off the mark.

The study, published in the most recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that physicians who are the most prone to paid medical malpractice claims shared the following statistics:

  • They were older
  • They were men
  • They practiced in the four areas, including obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, family medicine and general surgery

As part of the study, researchers examined over 66,000 paid medical malpractice claims filed against 54,000 physicians across the nation from 2005 to 2014. Here, 54 percent of these claims resulted in serious injuries to patients while another 33 percent of these claims resulted in patient deaths.

As if their findings concerning the shared set of characteristics wasn't shocking enough, the study also revealed that as few as one percent of physicians were responsible for almost one-third of the paid malpractice claims and, by extension, the more malpractice claims a physician had, the greater their chances were of being hit with another one.

"Compared to physicians with only one previous claim, a physician who has had three previous claims is three times as likely to have another one," said the lead author of the study. "A physician who has had four is four times more likely and so on."

While the study indicated that further research was needed to determine which physicians were most at risk of becoming repeat offenders, it did urge hospitals and health care systems to start looking at ways of identifying problems, and intervening with the necessary training and supervision.

This is truly a fascinating study. Here's hoping hospitals and health care systems heed this advice.

If you or a loved one has suffered unimaginable harm because of medical negligence, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options.

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