Good first impressions decrease malpractice

Poor communications and lackluster customer service are often the culprits behind a mammography malpractice claim, said Dr. Peter J. Dempsey, a professor of radiology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, speaking at the 24th Annual Breast Imaging Conference in September.

Citing findings from a 2002 Physician Insurers Association of America study, Dempsey noted that mammography cases have always ranked high among malpractice claims. But between 1995 and 2002, a key change occurred in the type of mammography malpractice claims being filed.

In 1995, the top reason for claims was that a palpable abnormality was ignored by an obstetrician/gynecologist. In 2002, the leading reason for claims was a mammogram misread by a radiologist.

Dempsey suggests repeating a mammogram of poor quality, recommending a repeat study in equivocal cases, reporting findings promptly to referring physicians, and ensuring that a fail-safe method exists for communicating results to patients.