Background Medical malpractice lawsuits contribute directly and indirectly to the cost of healthcare in the United States. Reducing medical malpractice claims represents an often unrecognized opportunity for improving both the quality and affordability of healthcare. Objectives The aim of this study was to better understand variables of the informed consent process that may contribute to reducing malpractice claims in plastic surgery. Methods A prospective multiple choice questionnaire was distributed via email to all of the 1694 members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) to evaluate attitudes and practices of informed consent in relation to medical malpractice. Results A total of 129 questionnaires obtained from plastic surgeons were eligible for analysis (response rate 7.6%). Respondents who provided procedure-specific brochures to their patients were significantly less likely to be sued for medical malpractice (P = 0.004) than those who did not. Plastic surgeons that participated in malpractice carrier-required courses on avoiding medical malpractice litigation had a similarly significantly reduced likelihood of lawsuits. (P = 0.04) Conclusions Variables that may reduce malpractice claims, and thereby both improve the quality and affordability of healthcare, include: (1) the use of procedure-specific patient education brochures; and (2) physician participation in malpractice insurance carrier-required courses. These findings should be of interest to physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies.
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