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APRIL 16, 2014

What Are the Top 5 Reasons Cardiologists Get Sued?

A recent analysis of closed-claims data from a malpractice insurer suggests that the top reason cardiologists get sued relates to problems with diagnoses: failure to make one, making the wrong one, or taking too long to arrive at one. The conclusion is based on information from the Doctors Company, a physician-owned malpractice insurer that examined 429 cardiology claims from 2007 through 2013. The claims were analyzed by Sandeep Mangalmurti, MD, JD, a cardiologist at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, NY.

The breakdown as reported by the company is that 25% of claims were related to the diagnosis-related issues mentioned. The next-highest reason for claims was improper management of treatment (14%), which relates mainly to how well a practice standardizes processes of care such as hand-offs of information from doctor to doctor at a shift change and protocols for follow-up of test results. Improper performance of a treatment or procedure (12%) and improper performance of surgery (11%) are the third- and fourth-highest reasons for claims. Dr. Mangalmurti said some complications are inevitable, but he pointed out that the cases stem more often from the mishandling of the complication than the complication itself.

Improper medication management is the fifth-most common reason for a malpractice claim, especially with respect to anticoagulants, which are the cause of almost all medication- associated claims. Another problematic medication is amiodarone, Dr. Mangalmurti noted, because of side effects such as pulmonary fibrosis.

The bottom line is that solid communications between physicians and patients and patients’ families are key to avoiding malpractice claims. Fully informing patients and their families about potential risks that accompany treatment and procedures, along with a “sincere effort on the part of the physician to take responsibility for any problems that occur and try to find solutions,” would help decrease the risk of malpractice claims.

Source: Neale T. Top 5 reasons cardiologists get sued. Medscape. March 14, 2014.

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