Radiology ranks 6th among physician specialities most likely to face a malpractice claim

More than half of physician specialists said they have been named in a malpractice lawsuit, and radiology ranked sixth among the top 10 specialties most likely to be sued, according to a new report from Medscape.

Among the more than 4,300 physicians surveyed, 76% of radiologists said they had been sued individually, with others or both, trailing only general surgery, urology otolaryngology, OBGYN/ women’s health professionals, and specialty surgery. The Medscape Malpractice Report 2019 surveyed U.S. physicians across more than 29 specialties between Aug. 6 and Sept. 26, 2019.

Most of those lawsuits stemmed from a failed or delayed diagnosis (33%), consistent with past surveys, according to the report. More than half of physicians said they were caught off guard by the suit and even more (83%) said the malpractice lawsuits filed against them were unwarranted.

“There’s a whole host of what you could call psychological factors that can contribute to the filing of a claim,” David S. Szabo, malpractice defense attorney with Locke Lord LLP, Boston, said in the report. “Those can involve when a patient perceives a breakdown in the doctor-patient relationship, or is pretty certain that there’s been a mistake, and they feel like they’ve been shut out of productive conversation with their healthcare provider or providers.”

Although 33% of the lawsuits were settled prior to trial, a quarter of those surveyed said they no longer trusted patients and treated them differently; 49% claimed it did not change their outlook.

What can radiologists do?

Looking back on the lawsuit, physicians were asked what they would have done differently and 18% said they would have taken better chart documentation, while 41% chose none of the eight options posed in the survey.

In a June piece published by the American Journal of Roentgenology, one radiologist put forth five ways imaging experts can minimize their malpractice risk. Making sure the radiology report is complete, accurate and clear was among the top recommendations.

“Documentation is key. If it wasn’t documented, the court assumes it wasn’t done,” an anonymous internist said in the Medscape report.