Do Nontechnical Skills Affect Legal Outcomes After Endoscopic Perforations?

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Department or Administrative Unit


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Health systems often emphasize technical skills to reduce iatrogenic injuries. Nontechnical skills such as clinical and communication skills are mostly overlooked or not readily retrievable from medical records. Our aim was to estimate the association of technical and nontechnical skills of endoscopists with indemnity payments to patients after endoscopic perforations.


This is an observational registry-based study of closed claims against gastroenterologists involved in endoscopic perforations.


We analyzed 175 closed claims related to perforations, all of which involved allegations of improper performance of the endoscopic procedure. Inadequate communication (n = 71, 41%) and clinical judgment (n = 60, 34%) on the part of the endoscopists were observed. Inadequate communication and clinical judgment were associated with over 3-fold odds of indemnity payment (odds ratio [OR] 3.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.46–7.48, and OR 3.18; 95% CI, 1.44–7.01, respectively). However, if there were no communication breakdown or clinical judgment issues and the only allegation was poor technical skill, the odds of indemnity payments were less than half of those cases (OR 0.43; 95% CI 0.15–0.80). There was no evidence of a statistically significant interaction among age, procedure type, trainee involvement, clinical severity, need for surgery, and procedure-related death.


We observed that inadequate communication and clinical judgment were associated with indemnity payment, independent of the severity of clinical outcomes. On the other hand, cases wherein there was an allegation of poor technical skills alone, without communication breakdown or clinical judgment issues, were associated with favorable legal outcomes for the defendant.


This article was originally published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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The American Journal of Gastroenterology


© 2020 by The American College of Gastroenterology