Often 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. Their colleagues deride some of these radiologists. Other physicians call this “selling out” to the lawyers. But is it? Today I will 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 one is to observe others’ mistakes. Participating in legal work provides this window to see other radiologists’ errors and to understand how to prevent these hazards. We are only a hair’s width away from being involved in a lawsuit for our actions and vocabulary daily. Why not work to distance yourself from being the next lawsuit victim?
Contrary to popular belief, involving oneself in legal work improves the readability of most radiologists’ reports instead of detracting from them. Those who do legal work are much less likely to leave grammar errors, typos, and other blunders in their reports. They tend to take the radiology report’s structure and final appearance much more seriously. Since they understand the ramifications of an unclear dictation, they are much less likely to confound their fellow clinicians with poor dictation.
Physicians participating in legal work are also more likely to know the jargon to not place in a report. Sometimes the wrong word choice can increase the chance of a lawsuit. Why not decrease the likelihood of it happening to you?
In addition, these radiologists tend to create differentials that consider the clinical situation because they know that subtleties can vastly change the outcomes of the patient’s management based on the malpractice outcomes of other radiologists. The final impression is more likely to consider these clinical issues, 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 increases the likelihood that a radiologist will document the critical findings and discussions with other doctors and patients. This information is vital not just for the attorneys but also crucial 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 understanding is only to the final benefit of patient care.
Is Legal Work Selling Out?
Based upon these tangible benefits of malpractice work, I think I make a case that participating in legal consultation is not “selling out.” Of course, some physicians 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 and improve their clinical and professional skills as a radiologist. Maybe we should all consider doing some malpractice work at one time or another!