Small Percentage of Physicians Account for One-Third of Malpractice Claims

HealthDay News — A small number of physicians account for a considerable proportion of all paid malpractice claims, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

David M. Studdert, ScD, from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues used data from the National Practitioner Data Bank and analyzed 66,426 claims paid against 54,099 physicians. They calculated the concentration of claims against physicians and identified characteristics of physicians at high risk for recurrent claims.

The researchers found that about 1% of physicians accounted for almost one-third (32%) of paid claims. Eighty-four percent of physicians with paid claims incurred only one during the study period, 16 percent had at least two paid claims, and 4% had at least three paid claims (accounting for 68, 32, and 12% of all claims, respectively). There was an increase in the risk of recurrence with the number of paid claims in adjusted analyses. 

The 2,160 physicians with three paid claims had a three-fold increased risk of incurring another paid claim, compared with physicians with only one paid claim (hazard ratio, 3.11); this corresponded to a 24% chance of another paid claim within two years.

“Over a recent 10-year period, a small number of physicians with distinctive characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large number of paid malpractice claims,” the authors write.


1. Studdert DM, Bismark MM, Mello MM, et al. A Prevalence and Characteristics of Physicians Prone to Malpractice Claims. N Engl J Med. 2016; 374:354-36. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa1506137.