Disturbing trends that could contribute to an increase in medical malpractice claims

by | Jan 5, 2023

Unacceptable behavior by physicians and healthcare professionals is on the rise, corresponding with increased attacks on physicians by patients

The leading online global destination for physicians and healthcare professionals worldwide, Medscape, recently released a disturbing report, pointing to an increase in unacceptable behavior by physicians and healthcare professionals during 2022.

Medscape surveyed over 1500 doctors to compile the the report and the results are alarming. For example, in response to the survey question, “Have you seen physicians behaving inappropriately?” Just 38% of Medical professionals answered “No” in 2022, compared to 44% in 2021. Perhaps the most disturbing trend about the report was the increase in physicians who had seen inappropriate behavior in the workplace 41% in 2022, compared to 35% in 2021.

Physicians behaving badly

Source: https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2022-physicians-misbehaving-6015583

41% of medical professionals surveyed, said that they had seen physicians behaving inappropriately in the workplace

Examples of that inappropriate behavior included, “A Californian surgeon attended traffic court via an online conferencing application, while performing surgery in the operating room,” and “Dancing in an exam room, with a naked patient post-plastic surgery.”

82% of respondents also said they had witnessed a physician “Making fun of or disparaging a patient, without that patient’s knowledge.”

Another poll reveals that violence against emergency room physicians is on the rise

While medical professionals believe inappropriate behavior is increasing, animosity toward them from patients also appears to be on the increase. A recent poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians found that violence against emergency room physicians is on the rise, with two-thirds of doctors working in emergency departments reporting that they were assaulted in the past year alone.

The college surveyed 2,712 physicians between July and August of 2022, with the results revealing another disturbing trend. More than eight in 10 emergency physicians surveyed, said that the rate of violence in their workplaces has increased.

45% of respondents said violence in the emergency department has greatly increased in the past five years, up from just 25% in a 2018 survey.

Overall, 85% of respondents said there has been at least some increase in violence.

55% said they were physically assaulted, compared to just 47% in 2018. However, 79% said they witnessed an assault.

Almost 70% of respondents believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a decrease in the level of trust between patients and emergency department staff, including physicians. But even without the pandemic, attacks against healthcare workers have been rising steadily since 2011, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking them.

However, despite the rise in assaults and the impact they have on physicians and staff, the poll indicated that hospitals are rarely pursuing action against the attackers. Only 2% of those surveyed believe that hospital security pressed charges. This lack of action can only lead to a further increase in violent attacks.

Medical malpractice claims could increase as a result

While the American Medical Association is rightly calling for stronger action at the Federal level to protect healthcare providers from violence, more prosecutions may not address this downward spiral in physician-patient relations. It is having a catastrophic impact on the quality of care people receive including increased wait times, a loss of productivity and a shortage of staff, as many healthcare providers quit. This will probably lead to more frustration and more animosity on both sides.

Any medical professional who has been a victim of threats or violence will naturally form an unfavorable opinion of the people they treat, leading to poor communication with patients.

When a large number of medical malpractice claims are initiated by patients who feel they are not being listened to, this downward spiral can only result in more malpractice claims, higher premiums and an increase in health costs for everyone.

Michael Richards

Michael Richards

President, Westwood Insurance Group

Michael began his insurance career over twenty years ago, working with a risk purchasing group, giving him a wealth of experience in both medical malpractice insurance and captives. Since founding the Westwood Insurance Group in 2001, Michael has developed solid relationships with many underwriters serving the healthcare and senior living marketplaces and is able to effectively help commercial agents with coverage for their clients

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