Neonatologists

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      MedMal and Neonatologists

      Neonatology is considered a high-risk specialty, meaning that specialists have significant exposure to the possibility of being sued for medical malpractice. Pediatric malpractice cases, and especially neonatal claims, often result in very large judgments against physicians for two reasons: jurors are often sympathetic to pediatric patients and the economic cost of a permanent injury to a child is greater than that of the same injury to an adult because the child is at the beginning of his or her life.

      The average closed pediatric claim in 2004 was about $468,000, 43-percent above the all-specialty average. Premiums for medical malpractice insurance vary widely depending on the state of practice. Premiums are highest in litigious states like Florida and lowest in more rural states and states that have enacted tort reform. The most risky areas of the practice of clinical neonatology are newborn resuscitation, brain injury in newborns, hyperbilirubinemia and group B streptococcal infection. Neonatology suits also commonly involve line complication (thrombus and vascular accidents) and delay in diagnosis or treatment of acidosis, hypotension, antibiotics and developmental dysplasia of the hip.

      In order to reduce the likelihood of facing a suit, neonatologists can adopt several effective and simple risk management practices. These risk minimizing procedures include maintaining competency and professionalism throughout the treatment process, perfecting the bedside manner and communication style as well as keeping thorough and exhaustive documentation of all cases.

      Most neonatologists work in hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). A survey published in the journal Pediatrics attempts to characterize allegations of malpractice in the NICU. The survey found that 43 percent of the responding neonatologists had faced at least one malpractice claim. For physicians with less than five years in practice, the likelihood of having experienced a claim was about 20 percent; NICU doctors who had been in practice for more than 15 years had about a 60-percent probability of having been sued. The researchers also found that neonatologists overwhelmingly support reforms to the medical liability system, like a no-fault system and a peer review process for screening out illegitimate cases.

      Neonatologists who are concerned about the rising cost of their medical liability insurance and the ill effects of this trend on their practice should support the efforts of their specialty organizations and of politicians to advance meaningful reforms to the liability system. Click here to read the medical liability reform position statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which outlines a variety of reforms and describes methods for physicians to get involved.

      Request your free Neonatology Medical Malpractice Insurance quote today, it could save you a substantial sum of money!

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

      Important Resources for Neonatologists

      Neonatology on the Web
      Neonatology (journal)
      Hot Topics in Neonatology
      Research and Reports in Neonatology
      Neo Conference – The Conference for Neonatology
      NIC University
      AAP – Section on Perinatal Pediatrics