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Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Ob/gyns confront many challenges—among them, malpractice lawsuits. In a recent survey, more than 4000 physicians, including ob/gyns, told Medscape how malpractice lawsuits affected their lives, why they were sued, what happened with the case, and how it has affected the way they practice medicine. Here are the results.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Malpractice lawsuits are pervasive. Eighty-five percent of ob/gyns have been named in a lawsuit. Over three fourths (78%) were involved in suits where other parties were also named, while 27% were involved in suits where they were the only person named.

Numbers in charts may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Almost one fourth (24%) of ob/gyns who were sued have been named in one lawsuit. However, the majority (62%) have been sued two to five times.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Malpractice lawsuits typically catch ob/gyns off-guard. Among ob/gyns sued, 70% were very or somewhat surprised by the suit, while 30% weren't surprised at all.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Among ob/gyns, the top reasons for a lawsuit were complications from treatment or surgery (34%), poor outcome or disease progression (21%), and failure to treat or delayed treatment (19%).

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Among ob/gyns named in a malpractice lawsuit, 85% felt that the suit was unwarranted. Six percent weren't sure and 9% agreed that the suit had merit.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

What adds to the ominous specter of malpractice is that in many situations, there is no forewarning. More than half (53%) of ob/gyns said that they knew of no event that sparked the lawsuit or would have alerted them to expect a suit. Slightly more than one third (35%) of ob/gyns said there was such an incident, while 11% said they didn't recall the circumstance.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Besides worrying about the outcome of a lawsuit, ob/gyns have to lose work time to prepare. Almost half (48%) of ob/gyns spent more than 40 hours on their defense, including getting records together, meeting with their attorney, and preparing for depositions and discussions. Fifteen percent of ob/gyns devoted 6 to 10 hours to these and other tasks, and another 13% allocated 11 to 20 hours of their time.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

For more than a quarter (27%) of ob/gyns, cases were resolved early enough that they never went to court or to a trial-related meeting. Still, 22% were in court or meetings for more than 50 hours.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Giving sworn evidence is an integral process in seeking the facts of a case. The information gained at depositions is often used to decide how to proceed. The majority of ob/gyns (89%) named in a malpractice lawsuit were involved in giving depositions.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Defendant attorneys say that ob/gyns sometimes get themselves into trouble during depositions by volunteering information that the plaintiff attorney can use to trip them up. Ob/gyns who have been through depositions provided the advice above for other physicians.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Nine percent of ob/gyns' lawsuits were resolved in under a year, while for 39%, the suit lasted 3 to 5 years. For 14% of ob/gyns, the process dragged on for over 5 years.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

More than a third (37%) of ob/gyns in our survey said that their lawsuit was settled before trial. Covering all types of lawsuits, the vast majority of cases do settle.[1] Of note, only 4% of respondents said the case went to trial and the judge or jury decided against them. For 18% of ob/gyns, the judge or jury returned a verdict in their favor.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Losing a lawsuit can be financially devastating to both the practice and the physician's personal finances. Not surprisingly, almost all ob/gyns (97%) said they have malpractice coverage. In a number of states, physicians are not required to carry malpractice insurance. In the first decade of the 2000s, "going bare" was an option chosen by a number of physicians; that option has since become less popular.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

The majority (50%) of ob/gyns said their insurer did not require them to settle the case. Slightly more than one third (34%) said their insurer encouraged them to settle, and 16% said their insurer required them to settle.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Plaintiffs in malpractice cases often walk away with a substantial financial award. One third of ob/gyns said that in their cases, the plaintiff received up to $500,000; 18% said the plaintiff was awarded from $500,000 to $1 million.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Of note, over half (53%) of ob/gyns think that the outcome of their malpractice suit was fair. Almost one half (47%) hold the opposite opinion.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

A malpractice lawsuit can change an ob/gyn's view on patients and healthcare. Nearly 3 in 10 ob/gyns no longer trust patients and now treat them differently. Going through a lawsuit prompted 4% of ob/gyns to change their insurer, while another 8% of ob/gyns decided to leave their practice setting.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Malpractice lawsuits can be challenging and difficult, and 44% of ob/gyns feel that the lawsuit negatively affected their overall medical career. Over half (56%) said the lawsuit had no negative effect.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back, ob/gyns who were sued say they would have done things differently to avoid the suit. Better chart documentation was cited most often (19%), followed by never having taken on the individual (11%) and referral of the patient to another physician (9%).

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

In 36 states, certain statements concerning disclosure or apologies are prohibited from being admissible in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Ob/gyns are still skeptical. The majority in our survey (87%) do not believe that saying "I'm sorry" to the plaintiff earlier, or at all, would have made a difference in whether they were sued, while 12% were unsure.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

For more than half (59%) of ob/gyns, the threat of lawsuits is on their mind all or most of the time. Many say that this is the motivation for so many physicians practicing defensive medicine. But 12% of ob/gyns said they rarely or never have these thoughts.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Almost half of ob/gyns (44%) indicated that the threat of malpractice influences their actions all or most of the time. Over a third of ob/gyns (37%) said that it occasionally influences their actions. Only 4% said that it never does.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Although the potential for a malpractice suit is greater when dealing with high-risk patients, most ob/gyns in our survey (68%) have not turned away such patients.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Many malpractice insurers offer a risk audit to help ob/gyns lower the malpractice risk at their practice. Still, over half of ob/gyns (53%) have not had nor plan to have a risk assessment. More than a third (38%) of ob/gyns said that they have done so, and 9% expect to do so in the future.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

While 17% of ob/gyns would not sue another physician, the majority (81%) said that if they were harmed by another physician they would consider suing, depending on the situation. Only 3% said that they would definitely sue another physician.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Politicians and medical organizations have promoted various ways to reduce the number of malpractice lawsuits. Almost two thirds (60%) of ob/gyns cited placing caps on noneconomic damages as the most effective way to discourage malpractice lawsuits, followed by having a medical panel screen cases for merit (52%) and better communication and rapport with patients (45%).

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Almost three fourths (71%) of ob/gyns gave a thumbs-down to major medical organizations' or state societies' efforts, and 8% felt that these organizations were active enough in working to improve the malpractice environment.

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

Medscape Ob/Gyn Malpractice Report 2017: Real Physicians. Real Lawsuits.

Sandra Levy; Leslie Kane, MA | December 5, 2017 | Contributor Information

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Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2017

More than 19,200 physicians in over 27 specialties responded to this year's Medscape compensation survey and told about their compensation, productivity, challenges, and more.Medscape Features Slideshows, April 2017
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