Radiologists are being sued more often, medical malpractice defense lawyers in Florida report. In recent years, studies by the Physicians Insurers Association of America have shown that radiologists—who make up less than 4% of all physicians in the United States—rank sixth highest for claims brought against them in the last twenty years.
Radiologists are responsible for interpreting the results of mammograms and other imaging studies, and communicating those results back to the patient's primary care physician. Throughout the whole process, radiologists rarely interact directly with the patients. Instead, their primary contact is with the referring doctor. But in lawsuits across the country, medical malpractice lawyers report that plaintiffs are citing a lack of communication as the reason for the legal action. Patients who were misdiagnosed, or not properly diagnosed at all, are particularly litigious.
The most commonly missed diagnosis is breast cancer, and patients who are not properly diagnosed after mammograms are the leading plaintiffs in the suits radiologists are facing. Another leading symptom that is easy to miss on an imaging scan is a small bone fracture, often in a foot or other extremity. Patients who cite procedural complications in their lawsuits come in second. But part of the problem with these lawsuits is that plaintiffs fail to take into account the methodology that radiologists have to use. According to several leading doctors, mammograms are not necessarily the most effective way to detect lesions that could indicate breast cancer, especially in women over 40.
Patients who are not correctly diagnosed with symptoms for breast cancer or other detectable illnesses often place the blame on the radiologists, because the primary doctor did not directly administer the imaging tests. Because radiologists have a duty to report on their findings, patients—and even referring physicians—sometimes hold the radiologist responsible when complications arise. If the doctor and the radiologist fail to identify the needs of the patient, that patient can accuse both doctor and technician of negligence in assessing the symptoms.
While most lawsuits brought against radiologists deal with the diagnosis aspect of the practice, patients are bringing more lawsuits to court with claims of poor communication between the radiologist and referring doctor. A lack of communication can lead to any number of delays or confusions in treatment, or even an illness that goes untreated. Studies show that more and more radiologists are also involved in lawsuits relating to gastrointestinal diseases. Time management is also important in the radiologist's job description—relaying crucial information in a less than timely manner could put the patient's life in jeopardy.
Although only 30-40% of Florida's radiologists have faced litigation, according to recent studies, lawsuits against radiologists are growing in number. Florida medical malpractice defense lawyers caution those in the field to work with care. Efficiency and clear communication are valued by both patients who go in for scans and the doctors who refer them. The medical malpractice attorneys at Florida law firm Lubell Rosen represent radiologists and other medical professionals who are facing litigation for a missed diagnosis, procedural complaint, or other medical complication.