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How the actions of physicians relate to medical malpractice

Doctors are human, and are, therefore, at risk of making a mistake when it comes to their care of patients, which is something that patients here in New York and elsewhere sometimes fail to remember. In some cases, these errors give rise to medical malpractice claims. A recent study done by the New England Journal of Medicine discovered that the behaviors and actions of physicians contribute to whether patients will file claims.

The study analyzed claims against doctors that were filed and paid from 2005 through 2014. The data highlighted certain behavioral factors that appeared to contribute to the claims. First, if a patient felt that a doctor was uncommunicative, lacked empathy or failed to be available or timely respond to a patient's concerns, the risk of claims increased. Patient satisfaction also played a role since those who were happy with their care were less likely to file a complaint.

The research also showed that patients who received an apology from a physician were not as likely to file medical malpractice lawsuits. Many doctors are hesitant to apologize because it could be considered an admission of guilt. In response, many states have passed so-called "apology laws" that do not allow an apology to be used against a doctor in a lawsuit, but New York is not among them.

This study highlights the fact that patients want physicians who are personable, take the time to address their concerns and appear to be remorseful when an error occurs. Exhibiting these behaviors is not a guarantee that a medical malpractice claim will not be filed against a particular physician. However, it could go a long way toward letting patients know that they are more than just a number and that their doctors truly care about them and their health.

Source: beckersasc.com, "Physician behavior impacts malpractice claims rate -- 5 takeaways", Mary Rechtoris, Sept. 17, 2016

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