A study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine explores the “characteristics of physicians prone to malpractice claims” as identified by information available through the National Practitioner Data Bank. While the findings focus on physicians with more than one malpractice claim that closed with a payment (approximately 70 percent of all medical malpractice claims and suits close without any payment) we know that every provider accused of malpractice can be distracted from their clinical responsibilities by the nagging awareness of their legal issues. Unfortunately, for some providers, that distraction from past events can impact the safety of today’s patients.
No one who is currently a defendant in a malpractice case should assume that it does not affect him or her. The legal process is slow and confounding. It is also, by design, adversarial. During the course of your case, your day may be interrupted by having to face harsh (and often hurtful) statements and questions. Then you have to go back to work and reset your focus on your next patient. Self-doubt can gain hold. Maybe you sense that everyone knows you’ve been sued, and you feel isolated. Some of the joy of practicing medicine is drained away.
Because the experience of being named in a malpractice case can increase your likelihood for being named in another one, look for ways to offset the drivers of that risk. Today, most hospitals and some professional groups offer discrete opportunities for physicians and nurses to explore the emotional and professional impact of being sued. Malpractice insurers and defense attorneys also want to help—it is in everyone’s interest to minimize the impact of your legal situation on your ability to practice safe care.
Physicians insured by CRICO can log in above to access support resources for defendants.