The Wall Street Journal “Health Blog” reported that over half (52%) of malpractice payments made by US physicians involved adverse events related to outpatient care in 2009, according to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In an interview, lead study author Dr. Tara Bishop, of Weill Cornell Medical College. told the “Health Blog” that the researchers were astounded to find such a high number of outpatient-related claims, suggested that more focus be placed on that area. The Journal quotes from the analysis, in which the study authors surmised, “Many outpatient sites may be too small to have well-trained staff who devote significant attention to improving patient safety.”
HealthDay reported that the researchers analyzed data on malpractice claims paid on “behalf of physicians who work in hospitals or doctors’ offices” from the US National Practitioner Data Bank.
Medscape reported that from 2005 to 2009, the “number of paid claims involving physicians declined 23.3%, from 14,006 to 10,739,” according to Dr. Bishop. During that period, paid claims for “outpatient events decreased at a slower rate: 19.3%”, and the hospital rate decrease was “considerably higher at 24.6%. Paid claims that spanned both settings declined 18.3%.” At the same time, the proportion of paid claims involving outpatient settings “rose from 41.7% to 43.1%, while the inpatient proportion declined from 49.3% to 47.6%.” Notably, the outpatient events “were not trivial. Roughly 70% involved death, a grave permanent injury such as brain damage, or a major injury, compared with 81% for inpatient outcomes.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.