New Study Explores Malpractice Claims Against Radiologists

Napa, California—December 3, 2019—Misinterpretation of scans and films—particularly CT scans—is the leading cause of patient injury involving diagnostic radiologists, according to a new study by The Doctors Company.

The study, issued today by the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, analyzes closed malpractice claims against both diagnostic and interventional radiologists. After detailing causes of patient injuries, researchers provide risk mitigation strategies.

“We undertake this research as part of our mission to advance the practice of good medicine and to spot trends early so physicians can focus on caring for patients instead of defending their practices,” said Darrell Ranum, JD, study author and vice president of patient safety and risk management with The Doctors Company. “This research sheds light on the most common types of claims, the most frequent patient injuries, the severity of these injuries, and the factors that contributed to patient harm.”

The study involved physician experts who reviewed claims and conducted medical record reviews to gain an accurate and unbiased understanding of what led to patient injuries.

This expert physician analysis of the factors leading to injuries in diagnostic radiology claims found:

  • The top contributing factor to patient injury was misinterpretation of diagnostic studies, occurring in 78 percent of cases.
  • The most common injury from misinterpretation of a diagnostic study was an undiagnosed malignancy.
  • CT scans were a factor in 34 percent of the cases involving misinterpretation of diagnostic studies.

“The findings in this study, especially those involving CT scans, should be noted by all diagnostic radiologists and clinicians,” said Bradley N. Delman, MD, MS, a neuroradiologist and vice chair for quality in radiology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “It appears that communication between radiologists and clinicians is happening more effectively than shown in a prior survey of claims, but with 18 percent of injuries still associated with poor communication between physicians, we still have plenty of room for improvement.”

In claims against interventional radiologists, physician experts found:

  • The top contributing factor to injury was technical performance, occurring in 76 percent of claims—most involving patients who suffered poor outcomes after invasive procedures.
  • In 65 percent of these cases, the correct procedure was performed appropriately, even when the patient suffered an undesirable outcome.
  • Only 11 percent of claims were found to be due to poor technique or incorrect body site.

“These findings indicate the importance of communication between the interventional radiologist and the patient prior to the surgery or procedure,” Ranum said. “It is critical for the radiologist to clearly explain the potential for injury during the informed consent process and verify that the patient understands the risks.”

About The Doctors Company
Founded and led by physicians, The Doctors Company (thedoctors.com) is relentlessly committed to advancing, protecting, and rewarding the practice of good medicine. The Doctors Company takes the mal out of malpractice insurance by helping hospitals and practices of all sizes manage the complexities of today’s healthcare environment—with expert guidance, resources, and coverage. The Doctors Company is the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, with 82,000 members and over $4.5 billion in assets, and is rated A by A.M. Best Company and Fitch Ratings. To learn more about data-driven insights and to stay up to date on industry trends, follow and subscribe to The Doctors Company on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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