The Otolaryngologist Med-Mal Marketplace
A 2006 Physician Practice Information (PPI) Survey, conducted by the American Medical Association, found 92.7% of otolaryngologists had a policy with a medical malpractice insurance carrier, while 7.3% were self-insured. The survey also showed that slightly more than half of doctors in the specialty had faced a malpractice claim in their careers, and those who had faced a claim had been sued an average of about two times. Also according to the PPI, the majority of otolaryngologists carried policy limits of $1 million per claim and $3 million aggregate per year and the average medical liability insurance premium in 2006 was $24,204. However, rates have spiked so greatly in the recent past that many surgeons have difficulty finding a company that will insure them.
Many otolaryngologists have restricted their operations or changed the scope of their practice because of the fear of being sued. Others have relocated their practice, retired early or are considering one of these options. Premiums for liability insurance vary widely based on the location of practice.
Malpractice claims against otolaryngologists can be divided into four major areas. From most to least prevalent, these areas are improper performance of a procedure, error in diagnosis, failure to supervise or monitor a case and procedures performed when not indicated. The most common cause of a successful suit against an otolaryngologist is improper performance of a procedure, as might be expected from a surgical specialty. However, the average payout is greatest for claims resulting from errors in diagnosis. Conditions and diseases that often lead to lawsuits include sinusitis, deviated nasal septum, tonsillitis and diseases of the upper respiratory tract. Physicians should take this information and learn to assess which procedures and patients are the riskiest, and then be sure to treat them with elevated caution and prudence.
Physicians can minimize their exposure to risk by using various risk management techniques. It is very important for otolaryngologists to keep detailed, accurate records of all interactions with patients. Records should include telephone conversations, mailings, conversations with a patient and the thought processes behind diagnoses and choices of procedures. If there is a lawsuit, never try to amend or alter a patient record, as this can be devastating in court. Research shows that forming a positive, personal relationship with patients greatly reduces the likelihood of being sued. Otolaryngologists, however, are surgeons and often have less of an opportunity to get to know their patients. Therefore, it is vital to take advantage of all interactions with patients to show courtesy and develop a positive relationship. If a mistake has been made, it is wise for doctors to directly contact the patient and honestly explain the situation, expressing appropriate sympathy. Expressing regret is not an admission of malpractice or negligence.
Otolaryngologists who are concerned about the spike in medical malpractice insurance premiums should become involved in tort reform advocacy efforts. This page details the efforts of the American Academy of Otolaryngologists, a leading specialty organization, to bring about reforms to the medical liability system, and provides support for otolaryngologists who want to get involved.
Medical malpractice insurance can be one of the expensive costs at your practice. We know this and that’s why we will shop your coverage to every insurance carrier that writes malpractice insurance policies for otolaryngologists. We have helped thousands of physicians save thousands of dollars. Let us help you save money, so you can put it where it belongs: back in your practice, and in your pocket.
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Important Resources for Otolaryngologists
American Academy of Otolaryngology
Otolaryngology and Facial Plastic Surgery Articles
American Journal of Otolaryngology
Association for Research in Otolaryngology
American Osteopathic Colleges of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology
Archives of Otolaryngology