Viewpoint: Why female physicians are sued less

A recent study found one-third of physicians are sued in their lifetime, but female physicians have nearly half as many claims against them as male physicians. Ron King, CEO of healthcare marking and practice management consulting firm Vanguard Communications, offered a few reasons why in an opinion piece on MedPage Today on May 28.

The American Medical Association analysis found 31.2 percent of physicians will be sued in their lifetime. There were 75 claims per 100 male physicians but only 42 claims per 100 female physicians. Also, female practitioners were sued about two-thirds as often as men, and women also had fewer legal complaints against them.

Mr. King offered three reasons that may contribute to the discrepancy:

  1. Many specialties with the highest lawsuit rates have overwhelmingly male clinicians, reducing the odds that the physician being sued is a woman. For example, fewer than 6 percent of orthopedic surgeons were women in 2022.

  2. Female physicians tend to have fewer patient encounters than their male counterparts. For example, female physicians conduct about 11 percent fewer patient visits and work 2.6 percent fewer clinical days than men. They also take off work for childcare more than three times as often as men.

  3. Female physicians' approach to their job might also play a part in how often they are sued, Mr. King said. Women in the field ask more psychosocial questions and spend 10 percent more time with patients. They also score higher on empathy scales, use more egalitarian language and less jargon.

    "It appears a safe bet that women make better physicians in at least one respect: patient satisfaction," Mr. King said. "It's a given that patients who get more physician time, more counseling, more empathy, more preventive care and experience fewer hospital admissions will be less litigious patients."

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