JAMA’s New Study: Inpatient & Outpatient Malpractice Claims

Author: Karen L. Tucci

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has reported the results of a recent study on the ‘Number of Inpatient and Outpatient Malpractice Claims.’ The study shows that in 2009, the “Number of paid malpractice claims reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) for events in the outpatient setting was similar to the number in the inpatient setting.’ JAMA, June 15, 2011-Vol. 305, No. 23. The study provides insight into the prevalence and seriousness of adverse medical events in the outpatient setting. The objective of the study was to report and compare the number, magnitude, and type of malpractice claims for events in inpatient and outpatient settings.

The study quoted data from the NPDB to address four research questions: (1) What are the number and magnitude of paid malpractice claims for events occurring in the inpatient and outpatient settings? (2) What are the recent trends in the number and magnitude of paid claims? (3) Are there differences in the types of events and severity of injury in each setting? And (4) What factors are associated with the magnitude of paid claims? The NPDB is publicly available from the Department of Health and Human Services Administration and its Statistical Data can be accessed www.npdb-hipdb.hrsa.gov.

In 2009, the study reports that there were 10,739 malpractice claims paid on behalf of physicians. Of those paid claims, 4,910 were for events in the inpatient setting. The study reports that there are almost 30 times more outpatient visits than hospital discharges annually, and invasive and high-technology diagnostic and therapeutic procedures are increasingly being performed in the outpatient setting. The study was done, in part, because there have been calls to devote more attention to adverse medical events, medical errors, and patient safety in the outpatient setting.
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