When you choose a doctor, what criteria do you use? If you’re like most people, you tend to look at factors based on a mix of necessity and convenience: does that doctor accept your insurance, and is their office easy to get to?
New information suggests, however, that if you really care about your health then it might be more important to take a hard look at another factor: how many malpractice claims has that doctor had to pay?
How Do Individuals Select Doctors?
Several studies have tried to understand how people pick their doctors. The specific results vary, but some findings are similar across them all: convenience and word-of-mouth are more important than hard measures of medical effectiveness.
One study found that a convenient location and friendly office staff were each more than twice as important as a physician’s success rate for benchmark procedures. That same study found, in fact, that less than half of patients did any research at all on their choice of physician and, for all practical purposes, chose one at random.
Another found that quality of care didn’t even make the top five selection criteria. In that same survey, patients who did research on potential physicians relied most (65%) on word of mouth along with potentially biased material from physicians, hospitals, and insurers: under 25% of them checked a physician ratings website.
Medical Malpractice Payouts Matter
The new report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at nationwide malpractice data and found that a very small number of physicians account for the bulk of problems. The researchers noted that only 6% of doctors had paid a medical malpractice claim over the 10-year study period. Just 1% of doctors accounted for nearly one-third of all paid claims. Paid claims, the researchers discovered, were more important than total claims because they highlighted the most serious problems.
Patterns which those looking for a new doctor should consider were revealed in the data, according to the study’s authors. Again, using paid claims as an indicator of substandard care, they found that simply having one paid claim was a warning sign, and that, in a kind of snowball effect, having multiple claims made it more likely that a physician would have even more claims.
Beyond that, they listed three factors as indicators for patients to consider: male doctors and older doctors had disproportionately more claims, as did those in four particular specialties (internal medicine, OB/GYN, general surgery, and general practice/family practice). This doesn’t mean that patients should avoid older, male doctors who work in these specialties: it only suggests that an awareness of these attributes can help a patient better scrutinize the choices when selecting a physician.
Committed Indiana Medical Malpractice Lawyers
While the new study suggests that a small number of doctors are the ones most likely to put their patients at risk, any physician or other medical professional has the potential to commit an error which leads to temporary or permanent injury, or even death. If this happens to you or a loved one, you should contact an experienced firm with medical malpractice law experience.
Wilson Kehoe Winingham might be able to help. We offer a free consultation to discuss the details of your case. Give us a call today, and we’ll help you understand what options are open to you. Our phone number is 317-920-6400; or use our online form and someone from our office will contact you.