General Surgeons offer high-risk care and need practical medical malpractice insurance policies to ensure their financial protection.
General surgeons are an essential part of the healthcare team and play a critical role in treating common illnesses that can be resolved with surgery. Due to the abundance of malpractice lawsuits and the high-risk nature of surgery, general surgeons tend to pay high malpractice insurance premiums.
The best way to make sure you are protected from the potential financial disaster of a medical malpractice lawsuit is by maintaining robust malpractice insurance from an A-rated carrier.
General Surgeon Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates
Rates for general surgeons tend to cost more than a physician’s average policy but less than other surgical specialties, like neurosurgeons. General surgeon insurance rates are expected to increase due to growing claims payouts and rising legal defense costs. Surgeons should periodically re-evaluate their current malpractice insurance program with a broker to ensure they have the right coverage at the lowest available rates.
Premiums for general surgeons are affected by a variety of factors including types of procedures offered, experience, claims history, and location. Mature claims-made estimates below are for informational purposes only. To get your personalized rate estimate, please request a quote.
|State||City||Premium Estimate||Limits of Liability|
|KS||Wichita||$50,000 + KS HCSF||$200,000/$600,000|
|IN||Indianapolis||$50,000 + IN PCF||$250,000/$750,000|
|LA||New Orleans||$50,000 + LA PCF||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
|NM**||Albuquerque||$35,000 + NM PCF||$200,000/600,000|
|PA||Philadelphia||$70,000 + MCARE||$500,000/$1,500,000|
|UT||Salt Lake City||$60,000||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
|WI||Milwaukee||$45,000 + PCF||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
*These states offer limit options
** Only Occurrence; no Claims-Made coverage
Why General Surgeons Need Medical Malpractice Insurance
General Surgeons have some of the highest medical liability claim frequencies among physicians. They tend to be sued for abnormal injury, failure to diagnose, and failure to treat. According to Medscape, general surgeons also report being sued for:
postoperative infection, pain, bleeding, and embolism
injuries occurring during surgery
actions of other professionals or staff
by patients who failed to seek follow-up care
Most physicians will face a lawsuit during their career, and general surgeons are among the most frequently sued. In the Medscape survey, 83% of general surgeons had reported being sued, with 23% reporting they were the only parties named in the suit. In addition, the American Medical Association indicates that the older a physician gets, the more likely they are to experience a malpractice claim, with male general surgeons at a slightly higher risk of a lawsuit.
The right medical malpractice insurance will protect you from multiple factors in the event of a lawsuit. These are:
Monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff
Federal law does not require surgeons to carry malpractice insurance. Whether or not general surgeons are required to have insurance is dependent upon the state in which they practice, but most hospitals require malpractice insurance if surgeons want admitting privileges.
How General Surgeons Can Reduce the Risk of Malpractice
The stress of being sued is a very damaging experience, even if there’s no payment to the patient. It can take years to decades to close a case, and the worry that general surgeons feel plus the potential resulting damage to their reputations can make some doctors want to leave the practice altogether. Fortunately, there are steps that general surgeons can take to reduce the risk of ever having to defend themselves in court.
Document all patient care and discussions thoroughly in the patient’s medical record as soon as possible. In the event of a lawsuit, general surgeons will need this information to recreate the circumstances of care for their deposition, and robust documentation can potentially keep a general surgeon from going to court in the first place. Try to review your records as if you were professionally critiquing someone else’s to make sure you have the proper documentation you need. If not using EMR, make sure to keep patient records current and legible.
How surgeons communicate with their patients has a tremendous impact on the likelihood of whether or not they’ll be sued. General surgeons who take the time to explain and educate, truly listen to their patients’ concerns, communicate well with patient families, and apologize when they’ve made a mistake are sued less often. Surgeons should document comprehensive informed consent discussions, including the patient’s response, in the medical record.
Referral and Follow Up
General surgeons can face legal trouble if they fail to make referrals when they are warranted. When a general surgeon does make a referral, robust patient follow up and excruciatingly thorough documentation of that follow up is an absolute must when it comes to proving due diligence.
In fact, in a Medscape survey of general surgeons who had been sued about what they wish they had done differently, 22% said they would have used better chart documentation, 16% would not have taken the patient on in the first place, and 9% responded that they would have spent more time with the patient and his or her family.
Of general surgeon respondents who reported being sued, the percentage was highest in outpatient clinics and in office-based solo practices.
Medical Malpractice Insurance Challenges for General Surgeons
Technological Advances in the Field
A notable trend in general surgery is the shift to high-tech, minimally invasive surgeries, including laparoscopic surgeries and robotic-assisted surgeries. While these technologies provide great benefits to the medical field, they are not without risk, and still produce complications and technical difficulties.
Developing expertise in these technologies requires a large amount of training and practice. General surgeons need to make sure that during the period of learning-curve, they should ask for help when needed and be especially attentive about practicing safe procedures under supervision until they feel comfortable. This can help reduce malpractice claims related to surgeon error.
Shortage of General Surgeons Entering the Workforce
Fewer medical students are choosing to go into general surgery, opting instead to specialize, and rural areas have been hit the hardest from the shortage of general surgeons. Exacerbating the problem, rural general surgeons tend to be older and approaching retirement faster, requiring their positions to be filled quickly by younger physicians. Fewer general surgeons mean greater access issues for patients and delays in care, plus physician burnout, which can increase the likelihood of a medical malpractice claim. To address this shortage, lawmakers are calling for additional funding for rural surgery and targeted rural residency training positions and programs.
Wide Range of Knowledge Needed to Provide Care
Because general surgeons need to be able to care for a wide variety of problems, the risk of misdiagnosis is more likely.
One doctor said it best: “The most challenging aspect of caring for patients as a general surgeon is the possibility of needing to deal with a wide range of surgical problems. When covering the ED on call, especially in a rural setting, a general surgeon may be called on to deal with abdominal complaints, trauma, ENT and orthopedic challenges. It is not uncommon to deal with GI complaints, internal medicine challenges and even dermatology.”
Rising Insurance Premiums
Across the board, insurance premiums are rising for medical professionals of all specialties, and the same can be predicted for general surgeons. In general, doctors’ medical malpractice insurance rates are on the rise as a result of increasing healthcare liability defense costs and larger indemnity payments.