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Small Percentage of U.S. Physicians Pose Greatest Medical Malpractice Risk to Patients

A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that just 2.3 percent of over 480,000 U.S. physicians accounted for 38.8 percent of paid medical malpractice claims from 2003 through 2015. In other words, an incredibly small percentage of physicians with poor malpractice records are posing a disproportionately high risk to patient safety.

This backs up the findings of a 2016 study that found that one percent of 54,000 physicians accounted for nearly one in three paid insurance claims between 2005 through 2014. As the number of paid claims a physician has increases, the likelihood of incurring another goes up as well. Physicians with three paid claims are three times more likely to incur another claim than physicians with a single previous claim.

The more recent study also found that physicians with multiple malpractice claims are more likely to shift into smaller practice settings. In fact, physicians with five or more claims are twice as likely to move onto a solo practice as physicians with no claims against them. Solo practices and smaller groups have less oversight than larger practices, which could lead to dangerous doctors having even worse patient outcomes.

The general public is also less likely to seek out information about previous lawsuits than an employer, meaning some patients are walking in unaware of their physician’s poor safety record. On top of that, over 90 percent of physicians with five or more claims continue to practice medicine.

These studies highlight the need for improvements in the medical malpractice system to improve patient care quality. One suggestion is for licensing boards to flag and address physicians with a certain number of claims filed against them. Professor of law and medicine at Stanford University David Studdert acknowledges these systematic failures, saying that “boards tend to focus on wrongdoing in particular instances, rather than looking at the bigger picture. There are sound legal reasons for doing that, but it doesn’t jibe well with how we think about quality of care outside the law.”

While medical malpractice cases may not be at the top of the news every day, it continues to be a serious problem that cannot be ignored. If you or a loved one has suffered due to the medical malpractice of a negligent physician, reach out to us today at 617-391-9001 or fill out our online contact form for a free legal consultation.

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The Legal Examiner 2019-05-31 17:58:45

Recently, the Nevada Senate unanimously passed Bill AB316, which will enact the Nevada 24/7 Sobriety and Drug Monitoring Program Act if signed by Governor Sisolak. The program is based on the “Sober 24” program currently being used in Washoe County. It requires some drug and alcohol offenders to undergo rigorous, long-term testing. Drug offenders will be given random drug tests at least twice a week, and DUI offenders will need to take a breathalyzer test twice a day, seven days a week, for a minimum of six months.

Washoe County’s 24/7 program began in 2016 and is modeled after a similar program in South Dakota. The program has already seen dramatic success: within the first year, DUI fatal accidents dropped from 24 to seven across the county. Joe Ingraham, Chief of the Washoe County Department of Alternative Sentencing, attributes this reduction to the program: “where I see the benefit of [the bill] is we can offer this program statewide because we know with our stats that this program works. It’s only one year of data but I feel certain that 24/7 Sober 24 had a hand in that.” Less than one in 10 participants in 24/7 Sober 24 reoffends within the first year, and 99 percent of the tests are successful.

Bill AB316 would implement the program throughout Nevada and permit DUI offenders to drive to court appearances, appointments, testing, and work on restricted licenses. Currently, approximately 85 percent of DUI offenders drive with a suspended license. Providing restricted licenses would allow offenders to move forward with their lives without risking the jail time that can result from driving with a suspended license.

While DUI deaths have been decreasing nationally, Reno and Sparks both listed among the nation’s top 25 cities for the highest number of DUIs in 2018. Individuals who choose to drive drunk in Nevada are not only endangering themselves and others, but also face hefty legal fees and fines, higher insurance rates, jail time, DUI classes, and license suspensions or restrictions.

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