Gastroenterologists

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      Liability Coverage Information for Gastroenterologists

      Gastroenterologists are not considered by insurance companies to have a high risk of being sued for malpractice. For this reason, premiums for medical malpractice insurance will usually not be at the high end of the spectrum. There is some speculation that gastroenterologists do have an increased risk of being sued because of the invasive nature of their specialty. However, research has shown that no such increased risk exists. Liability insurance premiums will vary widely based on the location of the practice and the specific procedures performed.

      In gastroenterology, the most common causes of claims are diagnosis errors and improper performance of procedures. To minimize the likelihood of a lawsuit for an error in diagnosis, physicians should keep careful records of each case, including the thought processes behind the diagnosis and the elimination of other diagnoses. This kind of record can be very helpful in court if there is a lawsuit. If a physician realizes that there is a possibility a claim could be made because of improper performance of a procedure, it is important to use effective communication. An honest, straightforward and direct style of communication reduces the likelihood that a patient will sue. If a mistake has been made, it is a good idea to acknowledge it and to express sympathy for the patient; an apology is never an admission of malpractice, but will sometimes convince a patient not to sue.

      As a specialty, gastroenterology is undergoing a period of change. The specialty’s focus is shifting onto imaging technologies; an article in Gastroenterology, the specialty’s preeminent professional journal, opines that endoscopy has become “an annuity for the survival of academic programs and clinical practices, and the greatest respect goes to those who endoscope the most and the fastest.” This rush toward new technologies presents a liability risk. The malpractice law is based on precedent and the accepted standard of responsible care, which is generally established through physician consensus. New technologies are uncertain legal territory, and physicians should practice careful risk management when using them.

      In addition to using risk management techniques, gastroenterologists who are concerned about the medical liability environment and rising medical malpractice insurance premiums should support advocates of tort reform. In its position statement on medical liability reform, the American Gastroenterological Association, a leading specialty organization, recommends reforms including limits on attorney fees, statutes of limitations, limits on noneconomic damages, and changes in the rules for expert witnesses in malpractice cases. The AGA website also has a tool that allows gastroenterologists to contact their legislators and urge them to support tort reform.

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      This write-up for Gastroenterologists was put together by Michael Matray, the Editor of the Medical Liability Monitor

      Important Resources for Gastroenterologists

      Gastroenterology (journal)
      Find Gastroenterologists
      American College of Gastroenterology
      American Gastroenterological Association
      American Journal of Gastroenterology
      Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology
      Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
      Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology