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Are some doctors more likely to commit medical malpractice?

When people in the Charleston area see a doctor, they probably expect that their doctor is in good standing with the medical community and has the proper credentials and licensing to practice medicine in their particular field. But even some doctors who are in good standing may have made serious medical mistakes in the past. So how can a patient figure out if their doctor has made such a mistake, and may be more likely than other doctors to make another in the future?

Data from Consumer Reports shows that about half of all medical malpractice payouts in the country are attributable to just two percent of doctors nationwide. A patient in West Virginia would likely be interested in knowing whether their doctor is among that two percent. This is especially true if the doctor is tasked with diagnosing a potentially fatal disease, or performing any kind of surgery.

However, finding this kind of background information about a doctor is not necessarily easy. Although thousands of doctors in the U.S. have been disciplined for a variety of problems ranging from poor patient treatment to sexual misconduct, patients don't always have easy access to that information. A national data bank contains information about medical malpractice claims and doctor discipline, but that database is not open to the public. In addition, finding this kind of information about doctors on websites like the one for the West Virginia Board of Medicine isn't always easy.

Medical mistakes cost more than 250,000 lives in the U.S. every year. Legal claims for medical malpractice lead to billions of dollars in payouts each year.

While no comprehensive system allows patients to completely screen their doctors, they can take some basic steps to help ensure their doctor is reliable. For example, people should choose a doctor who doesn't rush through patient visits and who is a good communicator. The doctor should take patient complaints seriously and address them properly. Above all, patients should try to choose a doctor who puts patient care above financial reward.

Source: Newsmax Health, "Has Your Doctor Been Disciplined? Here's How to Find Out," Nick Tate, Accessed on June 21, 2016

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