Top 3 Claims Against Plastic Surgeons Include Surgery Performance, Patient and Communication Issues

October 6, 2016

A study issued today of 1,438 claims against plastic surgeons insured by The Doctors Company, the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, highlights that both patients and physicians should work together to reduce the risk of injury.

The study, based on claims that closed from January 2007 through June 2015, includes the most common patient allegations as well as an analysis by physician experts that offers an accurate and unbiased understanding of the specific factors behind the injuries. The top patient allegation was improper performance of surgery (49 percent of claims), while the top factors leading to injury were technical performance (42 percent), patient factors (41 percent), and communication issues between the patient or family and the physician (10 percent). More than one factor often contributed to an injury.

“This study is invaluable in that it spots important trends early, such as the finding involving technical errors,” said David M. Charles, MD, retired plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Denver, Colorado, and a member of The Doctors Company’s Board of Governors. “With this knowledge, plastic surgeons can work to enhance technical skills and program directors can more keenly focus on technical skills when instructing residents.”

The study also provides strategies to reduce risks, such as improving communication when taking a patient’s history and confirming that patients understand discharge instructions. The study’s insights also highlight the important role patients play in their own care and recovery.

“Through data collected from our 78,000 members, we are uniquely positioned to pinpoint risks that others can’t see,” said study co-author David B. Troxel, MD, medical director, The Doctors Company. “We hope that these data-driven insights and mitigation strategies prompt physicians to collaborate with colleagues and hospital leaders to identify system weaknesses, thereby reducing the risk of harm to patients.”

“This is the most comprehensive study of its kind I have ever seen done in this specialty,” said Phil Haeck, MD, plastic surgeon with The Polyclinic in Seattle, Washington. “It unlocks for me the strategy a surgeon needs to take to ensure that he or she practices in the most risk-free environment they can.”

The study is available at

Source: The Doctors Company

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