Often times radiologists deliberately take advantage of the opportunity to do legal consultation work for a fee. These services include expert witness work and legal brief consultations. Some of these radiologists are derided by their colleagues. Other physicians call this “selling out” to the lawyers. But is it really? Today I am going to discuss why I think that radiologists who perform legal work provide some benefit not only to their financial well-being but also contribute to their own clinical and professional skills as a radiologist.
Better Understanding Of Radiology Malpractice
Nowadays in the United States, radiologists encounter so many pitfalls that can potentially envelop them in a lawsuit. Sometimes the only way to avoid a lawsuit is to observe others’ mistakes. Participating in legal work provides this window to see other radiologist’s errors and to understand how to avoid these hazards. We are only a hair’s width away from being involved in a lawsuit by our own actions and verbiage on a daily basis. Why not work to distance yourself from being the next victim of a lawsuit?
Contrary to popular belief, I believe involving oneself in legal work actually improves the readability of most radiologists’ reports instead of detracting from them. Those folks that do legal work are much less likely to leave grammar errors, typos, and other gaffes in their reports. In fact, they tend to take the structure and final appearance of the radiology report much more seriously. Since they understand the ramifications of an unclear report, they are much less likely to confound their fellow clinicians with a poor dictation.
Physicians that participate in legal work are also more likely to know which verbiage should not be placed in a report. Sometimes the wrong word choice can increase the chance of a lawsuit. Why not decrease the chances of it happening to you?
In addition, these radiologists tend to create differentials that take the clinical situation into account because they know that subtleties can vastly change the outcomes of the patient’s management based upon the malpractice outcomes of other radiologists. The final impression is more likely to take these clinical issues into account, providing more benefit to the ordering clinicians.
More Thorough Documentation
Some radiologists do not take the documentation of conversations with clinicians seriously. Understanding the mechanics of malpractice usually increases the likelihood that a radiologist will document the critical findings and discussions with other doctors and patients. This information is key not just for the attorneys but is also important for the timeline of the medical record to allow for better treatment and an understanding of the events during a patient’s clinical stay.
Improved Communication With Fellow Physicians
Knowing what has happened in other malpractice situations, also forces us to be more careful to communicate the results of a report on the phone or “in person” with other clinicians. Those that have completed malpractice work have a much lower threshold to trigger a phone call to their colleagues so that the report and the patient do not “slip through the cracks”. This is only to the final benefit of patient care.
Is Legal Work Really Selling Out?
Based upon these tangible benefits of malpractice work, I think I make a case that participating in legal work is by no means “selling out”. Of course, some physicians do abuse the legal system to make a quick buck and never learn from the mistakes of other radiologists. However, most radiologists that work with attorneys genuinely want to help their radiology colleagues as well as improve their own clinical and professional skills as a radiologist. Maybe we should all consider doing some malpractice work at one time or another!