71% of radiologists named in a malpractice lawsuit, though numbers are down during pandemic

About 71% of radiologists said they’ve been named in a malpractice suit, placing the profession ninth among the most-sued specialties, according to new survey data released Thursday.

Across all physician types, about 51% said they had been taken to court for allegedly negligent care, Medscape reported. Radiology saw a dip during the pandemic in 2021, down from the 76% rate recorded in 2019, likely driven by decreased patient volumes and lower court case counts.

“Many states had COVID-related immunities for providers treating patients with COVID,” Evan Lyman, an associate attorney at White Plains, New York-based Vouté, Lohrfink, McAndrew, Meisner & Roberts LLP, told the news website. “And especially during the first months of the pandemic, only the most urgent cases were being seen, so preventive imaging or elective procedures were not being conducted.”

Delayed or missed diagnoses was the top reason for such suits, cited by 64% of respondents, followed by complications from treatment (14%), and poor outcomes/disease progression (12%). About 60% of radiologists said they were “very surprised” by the lawsuit, higher than the general physician response rate of 54%. Another 32% were “somewhat surprised” at being taken to court while 9% were not at all. Lyman said members of the specialty are frequently caught off guard because they performed their duties, but another provider may have missed the next step in the care process. In about 58% of cases, rads were one of multiple parties named in the suit, versus 13% in which they were the sole defendant.

“I documented and noted my concerns in the patient’s chart, but the pulmonologist and cardiologist failed to read/act,” one unnamed radiologist said in the survey. “They then implicated me for lack of direction communication.”

About 42% of rads said the suit was settled before trial, and 14% were dismissed as parties in the case within the first few months. Another 7% said the lawsuit is still ongoing, while the same percentage said the verdict landed in their favor. About 99% said the plaintiff received a monetary payment, with the amount most commonly landing at less than $500,000 (36%) or below $100,000 (30%).

A total of 308 radiologists responded to the 10-minute online survey, which was conducted between May and August. Read more about the findings from Medscape below.

Marty Stempniak

Marty Stempniak has covered healthcare since 2012, with his byline appearing in the American Hospital Association's member magazine, Modern Healthcare and McKnight's. Prior to that, he wrote about village government and local business for his hometown newspaper in Oak Park, Illinois. He won a Peter Lisagor and Gold EXCEL awards in 2017 for his coverage of the opioid epidemic. 

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