(This story was updated with comment from the Physician Insurers Association of America on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.)
A relatively small number of doctors are responsible for a disproportionate percentage of paid malpractice claims, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors in certain specialties—including neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, obstetrician-gynecologists and general surgery—are also more likely to have more than one paid malpractice claim, according to the study.
“What we show is physicians who have multiple claims are an issue,” said lead author David Studdert, a professor of law and professor of medicine at Stanford University. The study suggests the concentration of these claims among certain types of physicians may be a bigger issue than previously thought, he said.
“We don't show it's possible to predict who those people are going to be, but we do take a step in that direction by identifying some distinctive characteristics of these practitioners,” Studdert said.
The study concludes that reliable prediction would help liability insurers and healthcare organizations "use the information constructively, by collaborating on interventions to address risks posed by claim-prone physicians (e.g. peer counseling, training, and supervision).”
About 1% of all doctors accounted for 32% of paid claims between 2005 and 2014, according to the study. Among physicians with paid claims, 84% had only one during that time; 16% had at least two paid claims; and 4% had at least three.
Physicians with two paid claims had almost twice the risk of having another one as compared with doctors with one previous paid claim. Doctors with three paid claims had three times the risk of recurrence as compared with those with one claim.