New York Times Health & Wellness Blog
What kind of medical error accounts for most malpractice payments: Surgical
mistakes? Overdoses? Obstetric errors?
No, no and no. The most common cause of paid claims for
malpractice is making errors in diagnosis.
Using the National Practitioner Data Bank, which records actions taken
by state licensing authorities against health care practitioners, researchers
found that 28.6 percent of malpractice payments are for diagnostic mistakes.
Errors related to treatment and surgery were second and third most common,
and all other errors combined — obstetric, medication, monitoring,
anesthesia and the rest — accounted for only 20 percent of malpractice payments.
published online in BMJ Quality and Safety, found more than 100,000 payments for diagnostic error from 1986 to 2010.
Diagnostic blunders accounted for 33.8 percent of the disabilities and
almost 40 percent of the deaths that resulted in malpractice payments.
The senior author, Dr. David E. Newman-Toker, an associate professor of
neurology at Johns Hopkins, said that “this is a major health problem,”
and that physicians, hospitals and insurers all need to contribute to
fixing it. “At the policy level,” he said, “there is
no institute that views it as their problem.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” he continued.
“You can’t get the treatment right if you don’t get
the diagnosis right.”