Friday, May 21, 2010

Unsupervised Physician Extenders Are a Key Malpractice Concern

Dr. Goldberg was recently interviewed by Denise Napoli of Skin & Allergy News magazine. Here is the published May, 2010 article in its entirety.


Improper use of "physician extenders," a lack of informed consent, and patient dissatisfaction are some of the top reasons why patients sue, and all are easily preventable, according to Dr. David J. Goldberg.

The first - the use of unsupervised or improperly trained physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or other physician extenders - hits home for many dermatologists. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, in 2010, 36% of physicians will use NPs and PAs in their practice, up from 30% in 2007 and 20% in 2002, Dr. Goldberg said at a cosmetic dermatology seminar sponsored by Skin Disease Education Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif. "NPs and PAs who work for core physicians are clearly the most qualified nonphysicians to perform these procedures," said Dr. Goldberg, director of dermatologic laser research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. Many have received cosmetic training through the Aesthetic Extender Symposium (, he said.

However, there are still risks. A 2006 American Society for Dermatologic Surgery survey found that 51% of ASDS members reported seeing nonphysician, nonsupervised physician-extender complications in their practice, with the two most common being misdiagnosed skin cancer and scarring following dermatologic procedures.

"If the [physician extender] is sued, so will be the provider who is affiliated with the PE," said Dr. Goldberg, who also is on the faculty of Fordham University School of Law in New York.

Poorly informed or uninformed consent is another moneymaker for medical malpractice lawyers in the field of dermatology, according to Dr. Goldberg. "Because dermatologists tend to see large numbers of patients, there is a tendency to be overwhelmed by the paperwork associated with quality informed consent," he said.

One procedure to be especially careful about is botulinum toxin type A injections - there were 2,464,123 in 2008, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The black box warning on Botox reads "swallowing and breathing difficulties can be life threatening and there have been reports of death."

Dr. Goldberg encouraged physicians to instruct patients to read the warning on botulinum toxin "each and every time" they receive it. He also encouraged discussion about these risks and the procedure's other rare but potential side effects, including generalized muscle weakness, diplopia, ptosis, dysphagia, dysphonia, dysarthria, and urinary incontinence.

He noted that many of these potential complications have never been reported with the cosmetic use of botulinum toxin.

Finally, Dr. Goldberg said that dermatologists can keep legal troubles at bay simply by keeping patients happy. He cited a 2006 retrospective chart study of all patients who received botulinum toxin injections over a 2-year period at a private dermatology clinic. The retention rate was 55%. However, the "institution of a 2-week posttreatment evaluation increased the retention rate from 55% to 67%," said Dr. Goldberg (Dermatol. Surg. 2006;32:212-5).

"Probably more important in keeping patients happy - and keeping them coming back - is to communicate with patients," he advised. "Treat each patient as if they are special. Pay total attention to their concerns. They will appreciate your one-on-one interaction with them."

Dr. Goldberg is a founding director of the Aesthetic Extended Symposium. SDEF and this news organization are owned by Elsevier.

1 comment:

  1. David !!! thank you for sharing.
    It' s good information.