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Concept: Medical malpractice

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Not all medical injuries are the result of negligence. In fact, most medical injuries are the result either of the inherent risk in the practice of medicine, or due to system errors, which cannot be prevented simply through fear of disciplinary action. This paper will discuss the differences between adverse events, negligence, and system errors; the current medical malpractice tort system in the United States; and review current and future solutions, including medical malpractice reform, alternative dispute resolution, health courts, and no-fault compensation systems. The current political environment favors investigation of non-cap tort reform remedies; investment into more rational oversight systems, such as health courts or no-fault systems may reap both quantitative and qualitative benefits for a less costly and safer health system.

Concepts: Medicine, United States, Dispute resolution, Medical malpractice, Negligence, Tort, Alternative dispute resolution, Tort law

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BackgroundPhysician health programmes (PHPs) are peer-assistance organizations that provide support to physicians struggling with addiction or with physical or mental health challenges. While the services they offer are setting new standards for recovery and care, they are not immune to public debate and criticism since some have concerns about those who are enrolled in, or have completed, such programmes and their subsequent ability to practice medicine safely.AimsTo examine whether medical malpractice claims were associated with monitoring by a PHP using a retrospective examination of administrative data.MethodsData on PHP clients who were insured by the largest malpractice carrier in the state were examined. First, a business-model analysis of malpractice risk examined relative risk ratings between programme clients and a matched physician cohort. Second, Wilcoxon analysis examined differences in annual rates of pre- and post-monitoring claims for PHP clients only.ResultsData on 818 clients was available for analysis. After monitoring, those enrolled in the programme showed a 20% lower malpractice risk than the matched cohort. Furthermore physicians' annual rate of claims were significantly lower after programme monitoring among PHP clients (P < 0.01).ConclusionsThis is the only study examining this issue to date. While there are a variety of reasons why physicians present to PHPs, this study demonstrates that treatment and monitoring is associated with a lowered risk of malpractice claims and suggests that patient care may be improved by PHP monitoring.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Patient, Hospital, Relative risk, Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Medical malpractice

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The aim of this systematic review was to examine the epidemiology of malpractice claims in primary care.

Concepts: Medical malpractice

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Background The distribution of malpractice claims among physicians is not well understood. If claim-prone physicians account for a substantial share of all claims, the ability to reliably identify them at an early stage could guide efforts to improve care. Methods Using data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, we analyzed 66,426 claims paid against 54,099 physicians from 2005 through 2014. We calculated concentrations of claims among physicians. We used multivariable recurrent-event survival analysis to identify characteristics of physicians at high risk for recurrent claims and to quantify risk levels over time. Results Approximately 1% of all physicians accounted for 32% of paid claims. Among physicians with paid claims, 84% incurred only one during the study period (accounting for 68% of all paid claims), 16% had at least two paid claims (accounting for 32% of the claims), and 4% had at least three paid claims (accounting for 12% of the claims). In adjusted analyses, the risk of recurrence increased with the number of previous paid claims. For example, as compared with physicians who had one previous paid claim, the 2160 physicians who had three paid claims had three times the risk of incurring another (hazard ratio, 3.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.84 to 3.41); this corresponded in absolute terms to a 24% chance (95% CI, 22 to 26) of another paid claim within 2 years. Risks of recurrence also varied widely according to specialty - for example, the risk among neurosurgeons was four times as great as the risk among psychiatrists. Conclusions Over a recent 10-year period, a small number of physicians with distinctive characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large number of paid malpractice claims.

Concepts: Statistics, Risk, Physician, Hazard, Large numbers, Recurrence relation, Specialty, Medical malpractice

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BACKGROUND: Surgical never events are being used increasingly as quality metrics in health care in the United States. However, little is known about their costs to the health care system, the outcomes of patients, or the characteristics of the providers involved. We designed a study to describe the number and magnitude of paid malpractice claims for surgical never events, as well as associated patient and provider characteristics. METHODS: We used the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository of medical malpractice claims, to identify malpractice settlements and judgments of surgical never events, including retained foreign bodies, wrong-site, wrong-patient, and wrong-procedure surgery. Payment amounts, patient outcomes, and provider characteristics were evaluated. RESULTS: We identified a total of 9,744 paid malpractice settlement and judgments for surgical never events occurring between 1990 and 2010. Malpractice payments for surgical never events totaled $1.3 billion. Mortality occurred in 6.6% of patients, permanent injury in 32.9%, and temporary injury in 59.2%. Based on literature rates of surgical adverse events resulting in paid malpractice claims, we estimated that 4,082 surgical never event claims occur each year in the United States. Increased payments were associated with severe patient outcomes and claims involving a physician with multiple malpractice reports. Of physicians named in a surgical never event claim, 12.4% were later named in at least 1 future surgical never event claim. CONCLUSION: Surgical never events are costly to the health care system and are associated with serious harm to patients. Patient and provider characteristics may help to guide prevention strategies.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Medicine, Hospital, United States, Physician, Illness, Medical malpractice

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BACKGROUND: We sought to characterise the frequency, health outcomes and economic consequences of diagnostic errors in the USA through analysis of closed, paid malpractice claims. METHODS: We analysed diagnosis-related claims from the National Practitioner Data Bank (1986-2010). We describe error type, outcome severity and payments (in 2011 US dollars), comparing diagnostic errors to other malpractice allegation groups and inpatient to outpatient within diagnostic errors. RESULTS: We analysed 350 706 paid claims. Diagnostic errors (n=100 249) were the leading type (28.6%) and accounted for the highest proportion of total payments (35.2%). The most frequent outcomes were death, significant permanent injury, major permanent injury and minor permanent injury. Diagnostic errors more often resulted in death than other allegation groups (40.9% vs 23.9%, p<0.001) and were the leading cause of claims-associated death and disability. More diagnostic error claims were outpatient than inpatient (68.8% vs 31.2%, p<0.001), but inpatient diagnostic errors were more likely to be lethal (48.4% vs 36.9%, p<0.001). The inflation-adjusted, 25-year sum of diagnosis-related payments was US$38.8 billion (mean per-claim payout US$386 849; median US$213 250; IQR US$74 545-484 500). Per-claim payments for permanent, serious morbidity that was 'quadriplegic, brain damage, lifelong care' (4.5%; mean US$808 591; median US$564 300), 'major' (13.3%; mean US$568 599; median US$355 350), or 'significant' (16.9%; mean US$419 711; median US$269 255) exceeded those where the outcome was death (40.9%; mean US$390 186; median US$251 745). CONCLUSIONS: Among malpractice claims, diagnostic errors appear to be the most common, most costly and most dangerous of medical mistakes. We found roughly equal numbers of lethal and non-lethal errors in our analysis, suggesting that the public health burden of diagnostic errors could be twice that previously estimated. Healthcare stakeholders should consider diagnostic safety a critical health policy issue.

Concepts: Median, Error, Absolute deviation, Mean, Normal distribution, Outcome, Medical malpractice, 175

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Unsolicited patient observations are associated with risk of medical malpractice claims. Because lawsuits may be triggered by an unexpected adverse outcome superimposed on a strained patient-physician relationship, a question remains as to whether behaviors that generate patient dissatisfaction might also contribute to the genesis of adverse outcomes themselves.

Concepts: Physician, Doctor-patient relationship, Iatrogenesis, Medical malpractice

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We identify five myths of medical malpractice that have wide currency in medical circles. The myths are as follows: (1) Malpractice crises are caused by spikes in medical malpractice litigation (ie, sudden rises in payouts and claim frequency), (2) the tort system delivers “jackpot justice,” (3) physicians are one malpractice verdict away from bankruptcy, (4) physicians move to states that adopt damages caps, and (5) tort reform will lower health-care spending dramatically. We test each assertion against the available empirical evidence on the subject and conclude by identifying various nonmythical problems with the medical malpractice system.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Physician, Jury, Medical malpractice, Tort, Tort law, Non-economic damages caps

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Current clinical guidelines for managing type 2 diabetes do not differentiate based on patient-specific factors. We present a data-driven algorithm for personalized diabetes management that improves health outcomes relative to the standard of care.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Epidemiology, Medical ethics, Diabetes mellitus type 2, Diabetes, Management, Medical malpractice

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Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is an uncommon obstetric condition involving usually women in labour or in the early post-partum period. Clinical consequences of this unpredictable and unpreventable pathology may be extremely serious with high morbidity and mortality rates. Data obtained from the US Amniotic Fluid Embolism Registry show that the process is more similar to anaphylaxis than to embolism, and the term anaphylactoid syndrome of pregnancy has been suggested because foetal tissue or amniotic fluid components are not universally found in women who present with signs and symptoms related to AFE. The first aim of this paper has been to focus on the medico-legal aspects concerning the misdiagnosis and the treatment of the AFE and the Authors, with this purpose, reviewed the main national and law cases on medical malpractice claims involving both physicians and hospitals. The second aim has been to highlight the need to introduce a National register as useful tool in order to raise the awareness of this disease among physicians and to improve the quality of care, which can be achieved through a proper identification and reporting of AFE cases. The application of a national register may limit the number of medico-legal litigations, which according to the national and foreign Jurisprudence are not currently based in favour of the predictability of AFE, but they focuses their discussion on the importance of a prompt medical assistance when the effects of this disorder occurred.

Concepts: Medicine, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Mortality rate, Amniotic sac, Obstetrics, Medical diagnosis, Medical malpractice