What can radiologists do to avoid malpractice claims?

The Cooperative of American Physicians (CAP) has released a new data study that explores factors commonly associated with diagnostic errors in radiology and suggests ways practices can improve patient care while avoiding malpractice claims.

“By analyzing claims data, we have learned the specific trends and patterns which contribute to diagnostic failures and communication issues,” Ann Whitehead, vice president of risk management at CAP, said in a prepared statement. “Whether you’re a radiologist or the ordering physician requesting the study, a diagnostic error can have devastating consequences for the patient. The risk management and patient safety strategies presented in this study can benefit all practices.”

According to the study, communication issues are a common theme in malpractice claims involving radiology.

“We see cases in which the interpreting radiologist’s interpretation is detrimentally impacted by a lack of available information,” the study’s authors wrote. “Often, the radiologist is not provided meaningful clinical history or earlier studies for comparison purposes, which can result in a failure to interpret findings in the context of the clinical presentation, or a too-narrow focus and interpretation that isn’t adjusted for the clinical presentation.”

Developing better communication processes between providers and radiologists, the authors noted, can help practices avoid these issues. Pre-imaging communication is especially important, and radiologists should have all the necessary information before being asked to interpret an exam.

Workflow challenges are also an issue in radiology. The radiologist often gets involved late in the process, according to the study, when the patient is already “gone from the imaging arena.” By moving the radiologists to the front of the process, “the ability to assess the best diagnostic tool for the intended purpose is enhanced.”

Other common factors covered in the report included system failures, technology and technical deficiencies.

The report, A Focused Review of Radiology Closed Claims, is available on the CAP website at no charge.