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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Prevalence and characteristics of physicians prone to malpractice claims.

Studdert DM, Bismark MM, Mello MM, et al. New Engl J Med. 2016;374(4):354-362.

A growing body of research has begun to assess the role of individual clinicians in patient safety, seeking to identify clinicians whose patients are at elevated risk of adverse events. Examining data on paid malpractice claims from the National Practitioner Data Bank over a 10-year period, this study found that 1% of physicians accounted for 32% of paid claims. Moreover, recidivism was common, in that practitioners with more than 3 claims had a 24% risk of another claim within the next 2 years. As in prior studies of malpractice data, surgeons and obstetricians were more likely to have paid a claim than internists. The pattern of a relatively small number of physicians incurring repeated claims, which mirrors data from studies of patient complaints, implies that it may be possible to identify clinicians who are at high risk of subsequent malpractice claims or patient complaints. The issues around such high-risk physicians are discussed in a previous WebM&M perspective.