The median payment among all claims was nearly $205,000.
Doctors who accumulated two lawsuits where money was paid out were twice as likely to be successfully sued for malpractice a third time compared to doctors who only had one paid claim against them. Doctors with more than five paid claims were 12 times more likely to face a subsequent claim.
Compared to general practitioners, recurrence rates were roughly two times higher in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery and general surgery. The recurrence rate was highest for neurosurgeons, at 2.3 times that of GPs.
Researchers looked for other traits, beyond specialty, that might predict which doctors are more likely to have malpractice claims.
They found that physicians under age 35 were two thirds less likely to have to pay on a malpractice claim after an initial payment. The odds of paying out on a subsequent claim were 38 percent higher among male doctors than female physicians. Doctors trained outside the U.S. were 12% more likely to have to pay out on more than one claim.
If problematic physicians can be identified, it might be possible to get them into programs designed to improve their practice and help them avoid future claims.
“There’s a question mark over whether interventions such as peer coaching, supervision, placing conditions on practice and so forth really are capable of returning high-risk physicians to safe practice,” Studdert said. “We need to learn a lot more about these programs.”