Outpatient malpractice claims catching up to inpatient; payments still lag behind

June 22, 2011

Diagnostic issues are most likely to get you sued in the outpatient setting, according to a new analysis of reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank. The analysis published in JAMA also noted that the number of paid malpractice claims originating in the outpatient setting is catching up to the inpatient setting, but that the mean payments remain much higher for inpatient claims.

It may be a dubious honor, but the number of paid malpractice claims originating in the outpatient setting is catching up to the inpatient setting. That is the finding of a newly-published analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association, based on reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank from 2005-2009.

Of the 10,739 malpractice claims paid on behalf of physicians in 2009, 4,910 were based on inpatient events, while 4,448 were for events in the outpatient setting. Another 966 claims involved both settings. The proportion of outpatient claims showed a slight but statistically-significant increase during the study period, rising from 41.7% in 2005 to 43.1% in 2009.

While the most common outcomes were the same-death or major injury-reasons for the complaint differed by setting. Diagnostic issues were most common in the outpatient realm while surgical issues were most frequently seen in hospitals.

Even though the proportion of claims is equalizing, physicians will be glad to know that the mean payment continues to differ substantially. During the period studied, the mean payment was $362,965 in the inpatient setting compared to $290,111 for outpatient claims.

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