Data Dive Study: A Focused Review of Radiology Closed Claims

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Radiologists make up approximately 3.6% of the U.S. physician population. However, a review of national closed claims data reveals that radiologists rank 6th among all specialties as the most frequently named defendant in medical malpractice claims.¹ In “The Causes of Medical Malpractice Suits against Radiologist in the United States”, Whang et al., concluded that errors in diagnosis is the most common general cause of malpractice claims against radiologists.² The most frequently missed diagnosis was breast cancer, followed by non-vertebral fractures and spinal fractures. Communication failures and failure to recommend additional testing were the most frequent contributing factors for filing a lawsuit.

In this review, the analysis of the Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc. (CAP) Radiology Closed Claims data, 2006-2015, will provide a snapshot of factors contributing to diagnostic errors and offer suggestions on how to improve the practice of radiology with an eye toward improving patient outcomes and avoiding malpractice claims.

CAP’s latest data study delves into the analytics of claims against CAP radiologists (radiology includes diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine, and interventional radiology). CAP Risk Management staff evaluated 68 closed claims radiology cases that resulted in an indemnity payment between 2006 and 2015.

Through claims analysis, we have identified areas to improve the medical diagnostic process. Interpretation errors and provider communication failures are two of the largest areas of claims involving radiologists. This data study provides a snapshot of factors contributing to diagnostic errors and offers suggestions on how to improve the practice of radiology with an eye toward improving patient outcomes and avoiding medical malpractice claims.

“By analyzing claims data, we have learned the specific trends and patterns that contribute to diagnostic failures and communication issues,” says Ann Whitehead, vice president, Risk Management and Patient Safety. “Since radiology overlaps with so many other specialties, the risk management strategies presented in this study can benefit all practices.”

CAP’s Risk Management and Patient Safety staff is available to discuss ways to implement the risk strategies listed and to assist with systems process improvement challenges. Questions or comments about the data study may be sent to riskinternet@CAPphysicians.com.

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