Small Number of Doctors Account for Significant Number of Malpractice Claims

February 26, 2016

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found one percent of physicians accounted for 32 percent of paid malpractice claims from 2005 to 2014, suggesting reliably identifying them at an early stage could guide efforts to improve care.  The new study by David M. Studdert,, which analyzed more than 66,000 claims paid against more than 54,000 physicians, noted "a small number of physicians with distinctive characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large number of paid malpractice claims."  For example, as compared with physicians who had one previous paid claim, the 2,160 physicians who had three paid claims had three times the risk of incurring another paid claim within two years.  The study used data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a clearinghouse for information on medical malpractice that Congress established in 1986 to help state licensing boards police the health-care industry.  An earlier report using the same database found that from 1990 to 2005, just 2.3 percent of doctors, having three or more malpractice payments, were responsible for 32.8 percent of all payments.  However, by federal law, none of the doctors in the database are listed by name.  They are assigned a random number to protect their identity.