Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Male docs are more often involved in medicolegal actions than female docs

"Male doctors are more likely to have experienced medico-legal actions compared to female doctors. This finding is robust internationally, across outcomes of varying severity, and over time," concluded a recent meta-analysis.

The study, published online in BMC Medicine, said men were 2.45 (95 % CI, 2.05–2.93) times more likely to have been the subject of legal proceedings.

Legal action was defined as disciplinary action by a medical regulatory body, malpractice experience, complaints received by a medical regulatory or healthcare complaints body, a criminal case, or when a paper on the topic did not specify one of the above.

Data from 32 published papers were pooled and analyzed. At first glance, the methods seem reasonable, and the conclusion may even be correct.

But to their credit, the authors mention that the paper has some limitations which, in my opinion, probably invalidate the results.

In the study, medicolegal encounters could not be broken down by specialty because of the 13 studies included in the meta-analysis, "the specialties most and least likely to face medicolegal action varied greatly."

Five of the included studies controlled for the effect of specialty, and four of them showed that specialty did not matter. However, that represents only 12.5% of the papers in the meta-analysis.

The paper also was unable to examine the effect of the number of hours worked or number of patients seen by doctors of each sex.

Here's why these limitations are important. A 2011 study done by a group from the American Board of Surgery looked at data submitted by over 5000 general surgeons applying for recertification and found the average yearly workload for men was 506 ± 370 cases vs. 375 ± 261 for women. More cases performed means more opportunities to be sued.

Obviously the types of surgery done also could have an impact on the number of malpractice suits filed. Men performed significantly more abdominal, gastrointestinal, and laparoscopic procedures than women, who performed significantly more breast surgery. The table below shows the data.

A financial blog called NerdWallet looked at Medicare payments to physicians of all specialties per year and found that male physicians see 60% more patients—women doctors treat an average of 320 Medicare patients a year; men treat 513.

This difference was true for nearly every specialty. Here are just a few examples:

Again, more patients seen equals more risk.

Male and female doctors may not have different legal problems after all, but a paper which found that surgeons are taller and better looking that non-surgeons is certainly true.


Stephen said...

I think that male doctors are more often involved in disciplinary actions because 1. They have a higher level of testosterone and we all know what that means and 2 they are more prevelant

Anonymous said...

The first question running thru my mind was -> are the guys doing more work, more of the risky work. If so, common sense should tell you they are going to get sued more.

PS That was cheesy putting in that last paragraph/sentence. I bet if you showed your wife that she'd roll her eyes. :)

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I had posted it without the last paragraph but then couldn't resist inserting it. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

hee hee hee hee. Surgeon ego. :) ;) Couldn't resist that either! Chime in Artiger.

artiger said...

Anon, I'm not sure who said it, I think either Barry Switzer or Steve Spurrier (or maybe both)..."It ain't bragging if it's true".

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Google the quote and you'll find it's been attributed to everyone from Bear Bryant to Jackie Robinson to Will Rogers.

artiger said...

And artiger.

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