Study identifies risk factors for refractive surgery malpractice lawsuits and claims
SAN FRANCISCO--Refractive surgeons in high-volume surgery practices are more likely to face malpractice claims and lawsuits than their colleagues. This is one of the conclusions of a study published in the November 2003 issue of Ophthalmology, the clinical journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye M.D. Association.
Study author Richard L. Abbott, MD, said, "This is the first published study that identifies and correlates statistically significant predictors and risk factors with malpractice liability claims and lawsuits following laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) surgery."
In the retrospective study, physician demographics and practice pattern data of 100 consecutive LASIK and PRK claims and lawsuits reported to the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC) were compared with demographics and practice patterns from all refractive surgeons insured by OMIC between 1996 to 2002.
The study found that high patient volume was the greatest risk factor for increased chances of incurring malpractice claims or lawsuits. High patient volume, when coupled with other risk factors, increased the likelihood of being sued. Other risk factors included:
Prior claims or lawsuits;
Male gender of the surgeon;
Time spent with patients;
Co-management with optometrists.
"For the first time, a methodology has been developed that identifies the risk factors," said Dr. Abbott, a professor of ophthalmology and co-director of corneal and refractive surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. "The methodology will impact malpractice liability underwriting in the short term and will allow for improved patient care and risk management guidelines in the long term. It is hoped the study results lead to higher quality of care for patients through guidelines that emphasize an improved informed consent process, more preoperative time between the patient and the surgeon, fewer communication errors with co-managing providers and less aggressive advertising." In its conclusion, the study states, "Ultimately, the results of this study should help improve the overall quality of care provided to refractive surgery patients and alter the image this procedure has acquired within the legal community and the public."
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons--Eye M.D.s--with more than 27,000 members worldwide. For more information about eye health care, visit the Academy's partner Web site, the Medem Network, at http://www.medem.com/eyemd. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at http://www.aao.org.