Do Physicians With More Complaints Get More Lawsuits? Malpractice Expert, Dr. Gerald Hickson.

Gerald Hickson

Image Courtesy of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Name: Gerald Hickson, MD

Specialty: Professor of Pediatrics and one of the world’s leading experts on medical malpractice risk and patient safety.

Location: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Nashville, TN.

Welcome back. Today we’re going to explore a topic that (while not always fun to discuss) is critically important to you and your patients. To help us out, we’re joined by Dr. Gerald Hickson. Dr. Hickson is one of the world’s leading experts on medical malpractice risk and patient safety. In over 150 peer reviewed articles and chapters, Dr. Hickson has explored questions such as:

Why do patients and families choose to file suit?

Why do most malpractice claims originate from a very small number of physicians?

What can you do to reduce medical malpractice claims risk?

Is there a link between physician behavior and patient outcomes?

The last question is a very interesting. It’s also the focus of Dr. Hickson’s most recent co-authored article, recently published in JAMA surgery.

Dr. Hickson is a pediatrician who served as Chief of Pediatric Outpatient Services at Vanderbilt. He currently serves as Senior VP of Quality, Safety and Risk Prevention, and Joseph C. Ross Chair of Medical Education and Administration at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Dr. Hickson is also known for developing  PARS® (Patient Advocacy Reporting System), a program that uses unsolicited patient complaint data to improve patient safety. It’s used in more than 70 hospitals and health systems nationwide.

This was a fascinating episode with numerous references to peer reviewed research and data. It’s all here in the show notes so you can explore for yourself. With that said, let’s get started.

Links and Resources:

Focus article from episode: “Use of Unsolicited Patient Observations to Identify Surgeons With Increased Risk for Postoperative Complications.”

About Dr. Gerald Hickson:

Vanderbilt Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy:

Book Chapter: “Balancing Systems and Individual Accountability in a Safety Culture.”

“Using Coworker Observations to Promote Accountability for Disrespectful and Unsafe Behaviors by Physicians and Advanced Practice Professionals.”

Addressing Behaviors that Undermine a Culture of Safety, Reliability, and Accountability Presentation: 3.02.17 PeerSpectrum Podcast – Final-3

PARS® (Patient Advocacy Reporting System):

One thought on “Do Physicians With More Complaints Get More Lawsuits? Malpractice Expert, Dr. Gerald Hickson.

  1. Some thoughts I had when listening to this podcast:
    How would I feel if I were singled out by my peers in my practice to review data which includes patient
    family concerns re: the level of care I am providing or how I communicate with them? Or approached
    by Dr Hickson and his committee?

    The following are some of the thoughts, ideas I have learned from this podcast:
    1. Dr Hickson emphasized his focus on confidentiality. I believe this is crucial as the data presented is
    meant for constructive criticism and information. Not something that could be detrimental to the
    physician or used against him or her in a court of law
    2. His program involves peer to peer contact within the MD’s own practice. I believe this is the best
    approach, as the peers will understand the situation the best and how to help the individual provider
    3. If this approach is initiated earlier I feel it can deter further problems down the road such as: negative
    comments online by patients/families which can be destructive and damaging to the provider and not
    necessarily accurate (ie: some patients/families will find fault, even when this is not warranted)
    4. When peers within a practice can look at the data together, along with the hospital or practice
    Administrator this I believe this is the best approach. Again, to focus on constructive criticism to help
    the individual change his/her manner or how he or she practices medicine
    5. Personally, I felt that Dr Hickson was a very approachable, likeable physician that I would feel comfortable with if I were on the receiving end of his encounters
    6. The hosts Keith Menkin and Colin Miller presented excellent, well-thought out open-ended questions
    And Dr Hickson explained things so well to the audience, that could be easily understood by a
    medical or non-medical individual
    7. Dr Hickson mentioned that RNs at Vanderbilt were interested in a program such as his, and believed it would benefit their profession, as well. As an NP, I am in total agreement with this, especially the peer to peer approach

    I have worked at the hospital in my area for many years as an RN in ICU, as an NP in the last 8 1/2
    years in Palliative Services in-house and in the community
    Many of our consults start initially with family meetings. I believe this communication is crucial in
    understanding how to serve the patient and his or her family
    I agree with Dr Hickson that there will always be a small percentage of patients or families that will not
    be satisfied no matter how much you try to help or what you do.
    But in our meetings we allow patients/families to express their concerns or ask questions, which I feel
    greatly helps reduce anxiety and helps them to make the best informed decisions possible
    I believe this is what Dr Hickson is trying to achieve in a broader more in-depth way and has already
    succeeded in many areas of the country
    I greatly respect and support what he does. We need many more like him!


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