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Liability Issues in Dermatology

Friday, February 10, 2012

An interesting thing about Dermatology is that studies indicate most malpractice claims result from the most common types of clinical situations, not the more exotic procedures. The most common malpractice claim against dermatologists arises from the failure to diagnose malignant neoplasm of the skin. The second most common condition for which claims are filed is acne, with psoriasis ranking among the top five. These conditions make up a very large percentage of the volume in an average dermatological practice. Most dermatology malpractice claims result from a claim of improper performance of a procedure or prescription errors.

While dermatology is still a low-risk medical specialty, dermatologists are advised to take certain steps to decrease the chance of being on the wrong end of a malpractice claim. Many of these steps involve informing the public and patients about realistic expectations from treatment. Unrealistic expectations produce patient dissatisfaction and provide material for lawsuits. 

Some cautionary advice given to dermatologists include the following:

  • Do not exaggerate expected results to a patient or in your advertising.
  • Be careful about participating in situations that may tend to compromise your professional status. An example of this practice is the popularity of Botox parties, which trivialize the procedure and make dermatologists look unprofessional and money hungry.
  • Seek counsel when endorsing a commercial venture that uses your background solely to validate a technology. If a dermatologist endorses a skincare product, he or she should make sure that the promoter’s data supports the claims of effectiveness.
  • Do not give an opinion in an area of dermatology where the physician has only limited knowledge.

Outside Business Ventures
Perhaps a bigger area of coverage concern for dermatologists comes into play when acting as either a Medical Director or practicing at a Medi-Spa. Physicians should carefully examine their contract with the Medi-Spa and ensure that the Medi-Spa is providing coverage while the physician is acting as Medical Director. There is no coverage for administrative duties on a physician’s malpractice policy. 

Additionally, if a physician is working on an employed or contracted basis, they need to carefully examine the policy for procedure limitations. Most Medi-Spa policies will only cover procedures which are specifically listed. Any procedures not listed are not covered. 

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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