Examining Physicians with Multiple Malpractice Claims

Where do physicians with poor malpractice liability records go? Professors David Studdert and Michelle Mello (BA ’93) answer this question in a new study published in March in the New England Journal of Medicine. “There is an emerging awareness that a small group of ‘frequent flyers’ accounts for an impressively large share of all malpractice lawsuits,” says Studdert. After reviewing more than a decade’s worth of data from nearly half a million physicians, Studdert and Mello found that physicians who were sued repeatedly were more likely to either cease practice altogether or to shift to smaller practice groups or solo practice.

“Quality problems with solo practitioners may be more difficult to detect and report,” says Mello. “From a patient safety standpoint, this is the study’s most troubling finding. Frankly, solo practice is the last place we want practitioners who pose patient safety risks to be working.”

“We think the study’s main message is that regulators and the companies that provide physicians with liability insurance should pay closer attention to the accumulation of malpractice claims by certain practitioners,” Studdert says.


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