Gap Between Malpractice Risk for Inpatient and Outpatient Care Closes
Physicians and medical malpractice attorneys alike probably speculate that practitioners of the various surgical specialties carry the highest risk of being named in a malpractice lawsuit. After all, adverse events in those fields have the potential to be catastrophic and tend to be associated with large payouts for plaintiffs. In actuality, they may be wrong, according to recent trends.
Research published in the June 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that, in 2009, roughly half of all medical malpractice payments were based on allegations of negligence in the outpatient setting. Despite the fact that there are an estimated 30 outpatient visits per each hospital discharge, medical negligence claims are made nearly as frequently for care provided in outpatient settings as that provided in inpatient settings. Not surprisingly, however, payments for inpatient errors remained higher. The most common claims in the inpatient setting were based on alleged surgical error while the most common claims in the outpatient setting involved allegations of diagnostic error.
The study demonstrates the importance of focusing quality improvement efforts not just on the inpatient setting but also outpatient care. The changing face of healthcare suggest that diagnostic tests and invasive procedures are occurring with greater frequency on an outpatient basis. Determining quality measures and developing a structured approach to improving safety is historically more complex in the outpatient setting because it involves a wider range of processes. However, in light of this recent statistic that, as of 2009, 43% of medical malpractice claims originated in outpatient settings, it is a certainly an objective worth pursuing.
See the JAMA abstract here: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/23/2427.abstract