Do some doctors take on more risk than others?

A neurosurgeon has higher malpractice premiums than an internal medicine physician, but do they really take on more risk?

The Happy Hospitalist says no.

That’s a counter-intuitive take, as surgeons and proceduralists are perceived to take on more risk, and thus, pay higher malpractice rates.

“I don’t think any physician, who is trained in their scope of practice, takes on anymore risk than any other physician, regardless of what field of medicine they practice in,” writes Happy.”Higher rates of bad outcomes does not mean that more bad medicine or more negligence is occurring. Or that there is more risk involved.”

He goes on to compare the cases a neurosurgeon must take, such as a craniotomy in an emergency setting, with a complicated intensive care patient that a hospitalist often manages.

“Who carries the greater risk? Is a neurosurgeon, practicing within their scope doing anything more risky than an internist practicing within theirs?”

The answer isn’t as clear as you think, as doctors practicing what they’re trained to do shouldn’t be inherently risky. So, whether you’re a neurosurgeon or internist, all doctors theoretically are exposed to the same degree of risk.