CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Study Finds Physician Errors Source of Medical Malpractice Claims

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, physician errors are a factor in about 60% of medical malpractice claims that involved patients allegedly injured because of missed or delayed diagnoses

For the study, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reviewed 307 claims from four large malpractice insurers that were closed between 1984 and 2004, 181 of which involved alleged diagnostic errors that injured patients. Researchers ignored the outcomes of the claims. The majority of the claims involved cancer patients, 30% of whom died. Although most of the claims involved several factors, the study finds the major ones involved physician errors.

According to the study:

* 100 claims involved failure to order appropriate diagnostic tests;

* 81 claims involved failure to establish a plan for appropriate follow-up care;

* 76 claims involved failure to obtain an adequate patient history or perform an adequate physical examination; and

* 67 claims involved improper interpretation of diagnostic tests.

The main factors that contributed to the physician errors included failures in judgment (79%), memory problems (59%), lack of knowledge (48%), patient-related issues (46%) and patient handoffs from other physicians (20%), the study finds.

Notably, a 1998 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Studdert et al. found far fewer malpractice (negligence) claims against complementary and alternative medical providers, as compared with malpractice claims against primary care physicians and other medical doctors.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173