The Medical Professional Liability Association is based in Rockville, MD and represents providers in the medical malpractice insurance market. The CEO, Brian Atchinson, reported that failure to diagnose (missed diagnosis) is the second leading cause for liability claims. He explains that while other problems such as medication errors and those associated with surgery have improved, diagnosis is increasingly a cause of claims. Radiologists are among those most involved with diagnostic errors and are in need of enhanced practices that better manage risk. In overall claims of medical malpractice, diagnostic mistakes are the largest single category for claims, as they comprise roughly 33% of them.
According to professional medical liability insurer Coverys, approximately 15% of diagnostic-related claims of malpractice name a radiologist as a defendant. Between 2013 and 2017 they reported that roughly 595 claims involved a radiologist. Of these claims, 80% of the errors were caused by misinterpretation. Many in the field are adopting practices that use a second practitioner to review their findings. These peer-review measures are designed to greatly reduce the volume of errors. One example of a potential medical malpractice claim that radiologists face is a failure to detect and diagnose the presence of cancer. These types of claims tend to result in larger settlement or awards amounts, particularly when the cancer spreads rapidly within the body to other areas.
Risk Management Steps
Coverys’ recommendation is that risk management policies establish specific criteria for when peer review is appropriate. This process coincides with the completion of a quality control checklist. These efforts also require that the peer reviewer’s findings be formally communicated back to the initial radiologist. Changes in technology require reevaluation of the process to maximize performance.
Comparison With Other Specialties
The American Medical Association reports that obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs) are the physicians that face the highest number of malpractice claims, with over 60% reporting they were sued one time and over 40% sued twice. A large portion of these claims involving women’s health are associated with childbirth, such as birth injuries. Others among the most likely to be sued include neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons. The premiums paid for malpractice insurance among these providers is higher based on the increased risk of claims.
A radiologist is a medical doctor that is active in detecting, diagnosing and treating many types of conditions, diseases, and injuries. Some of the imaging technology they use includes ultrasound, X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission topography (PET). Their complete education and training may last over a decade and usually includes medical school, a residency program, and a fellowship. The American Board of Radiology is responsible for board certification of these physicians and is active in facilitating programs of continuing medical education. Radiologists are a valuable resource for other doctors in a host of specialties.
Subspecialties in the Field
Radiologists often enhance their scope of practice by focusing on a variety of subspecialties such as:
- Head & Neck
- Breast Imaging
- Oncology and more