Medical malpractice claims risk in urology: an empirical analysis of patient complaint data

J Urol. 2010 May;183(5):1971-6. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2010.01.027. Epub 2010 Mar 19.


Purpose: Patient complaints are associated with physician risk management experience, including medical malpractice claims risk, and small proportions of physicians account for disproportionate shares of claims. We investigated whether patient complaint experience differs among urologists, and whether urological subspecialists generate distinct quantities and types of complaints.

Materials and methods: This retrospective study examined 1,516 unsolicited patient complaints filed against 268 urologists. Patient complaint and urological subspecialty data were collected from January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2007 for 15 geographically diverse health systems. The cohort urologists were assigned medical malpractice claims risk scores and complaint type profiles. A weighted sum algorithm produced risk scores from 4 consecutive years of complaint data and complaint type profiles were generated using a standardized coding system. Statistical analyses tested the associations among risk score, complaint type profile and urological subspecialty. Complaint type profile and subspecialty distribution were assessed for urologists in the cohort top decile for risk scores.

Results: Overall 125 (47%) urologists were associated with 0 patient complaints, while 30 (11%) urologists were associated with 758 (50%) of the patient complaints. Subspecialty and distribution of risk scores were significantly associated (p <0.001). Calculi and oncology subspecialist distributions suggest greater overall risk. Complaint types also varied among subspecialists (p = 0.02). There was no association between top decile urologists and complaint type profile (p = 0.19).

Conclusions: Unsolicited patient complaints were nonrandomly distributed among urologists and urological subspecialties. Monitoring patient complaints may allow for early identification of and intervention with high risk urologists before malpractice claims accumulate.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Malpractice / economics
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Malpractice / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Urology / economics
  • Urology / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Urology / statistics & numerical data