Study Finds 1 Percent of U.S. Doctors Make Malpractice Payments

A new study just released out of Stanford University found that just one out of every 100 doctors is responsible for 32 percent of medical malpractice payouts to patients. This comes from a comprehensive study of 15 years’ worth of cases. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that when a doctor has to pay out one claim, the chances are good that the same doctor will soon be paying out on another.  

Chief Author David Studdert of Stanford University also thinks people will be surprised that the claims are concentrated within a relatively small group of practitioners. Past studies on medical malpractice claims typically focused on a single insurer or a single state, and repeat offenders may have been able to avoid being tracked, by moving or switching insurers, Studdert said. “We have a kind of national all-encompassing window, so we should have been able to track the doctors wherever they go.”  

Studdert’s team analyzed 66,426 medical malpractice claims paid against 54,099 doctors from 2005 to 2014. The study shows that it may be predictable to know which doctors are more likely to have medical malpractice claims. If problem docs can be identified, it may be possible to get them into programs designed to improve their practice and help them avoid future claims.   

According to the Journal of Patient Safety, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in this country behind heart disease and cancer. This staggering statistic does not include those who suffer life-altering, permanent injuries because of medical malpractice or medical negligence. These medical errors by medical treaters and hospitals can undoubtedly be decreased by holding them financially accountable for their conduct. Unfortunately, studies show that approximately 90 percent of medical malpractice incidents go unreported.

Source: Stanford Medicine News Center, Journal of Patient Safety