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Gastroenterology Malpractice Claims Analyzed

Although perception of risk is high among gastroenterologists, reality looks much better

MONDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- While the procedural nature of gastroenterology leads to a perception of increased legal risk, there are relatively few malpractice claims and payments, according to an article published in the June issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Laurie S. Conklin M.D., of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues examined malpractice claims submitted to the Physician Insurers Association of America Data Sharing Project over a 20-year period and compared gastroenterology malpractice claims with other subspecialties.

The investigators found that only 1 percent of malpractice claims during the 20-year study period involved gastroenterologists and that "error in diagnosis" and "improper performance" of a procedure were the two most common claims. Two-thirds of gastroenterology physicians involved in a claim in this database also had prior malpractice claims. In comparison to other specialties, gastroenterology claims were about half of that seen in obstetric-gynecology and two-thirds of that seen in general surgery.

"This study is reassuring in that gastroenterologists do not appear to have malpractice claim rates in the range of other subspecialties performing surgical procedures," according to the authors. However, they suggest "physicians who already have been involved in a claim should seriously review their procedural and diagnostic techniques, communication with patients, and other methods of practice because the data suggest that they are at increased risk of involvement in a second claim."

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