An empirical data comparison of regulatory agency and malpractice legal problems for psychiatrists

BACKGROUND: Our objective is to compare legal difficulties that psychiatrists encounter in regulatory agency and malpractice (insurance) settings.

METHODS: Data sources included a literature search of malpractice and medical board discipline from 1990 to 2009 (rates and types of discipline); publicly available insurance data (malpractice frequency and type); and data from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) (required reports of malpractice settlements and hospital discipline).

RESULTS: Medical board discipline findings indicate that psychiatrists are at increased risk of disciplinary action compared with other specialties. NPDB data indicated relatively infrequent problems for psychiatrists. In malpractice, psychiatry accounted for a small percentage of overall claims and settlements. Overall, more years in practice and a lack of board certification increased the risk of legal difficulties.

CONCLUSIONS: There are shared and separate risk factors in the malpractice and regulatory agency areas, but there is evidence that these 2 legal areas are distinct from each other.

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