The results of a recent study of medical malpractice claims involving emergency medicine that were closed between 2007 and 2013 by the largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurance company found that issues related to diagnosis are the main reason that emergency room physicians are sued for medical malpractice and is the top cause of injuries suffered by patients.
The study analyzed 332 emergency medicine claims that the medical malpractice insurance company closed during the relevant period (2007 to 2013). The study found that the medical conditions that were most often misdiagnosed in the emergency department were acute cerebral vascular accident, myocardial infarction, spinal epidural abscess, pulmonary embolism, necrotizing fasciitis, meningitis, torsion of the testis, subarachnoid hemorrhage, septicemia, lung cancer, fractures, and appendicitis.
The Four Most Common Patient Allegations In Emergency Medicine Claims
The study found that the most common claims (57%) were diagnosis-related, involving allegations of failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, or wrong diagnosis, and sometimes involved the failure to obtain a consult or discharge too soon from the emergency department.
The second most common patient allegation involving emergency medicine (13%) involved allegations of improper management of treatment, including the failure to stabilize a patient’s neck following an accident with trauma to the head and neck that resulted in paraplegia, and failure to explore a wound that was infected or found to contain foreign bodies.
The third most common patient allegation involving emergency medicine (5%) involved allegations of improper performance of a treatment or procedure, including intubation, suturing, x-rays or imaging procedures, and insertion of an IV or central line for medications.
The fourth most common patient allegation involving emergency medicine (3%) involved allegations of failure to order medication, including the failure to order antibiotics in cases of suspected pneumonia resulting in death, fever that resulted in sepsis and death, localized infections that spread, and the failure to initiate fibrinolytic therapy in acute MI or stroke patients.
The Six Top Factors Contributing To Patient Injury
The study found that 52% of the emergency medicine medical malpractice claims that contributed to patient injury involved patient assessment-related issues, involving the failure to establish a differential diagnosis, failure to order diagnostic tests, failure to address abnormal findings, and the failure to consider available clinical information.
The second top factor contributing to patient injury (21%) were patient factors, including physical characteristics (such as obesity) and patient behaviors (such as non-adherence with treatment plans or follow-up appointments).
The third top factor contributing to patient injury (17%) involved communication among providers, including the failure to communicate, the failure to review the medical records, and poor professional rapport.
The fourth top factor contributing to patient injury (14%) involved communication between the patient and/or family and providers, including poor rapport with the patient and communication issues involving inadequate patient education of follow-up instructions or language barriers.
The fifth top factor contributing to patient injury (13%) involved insufficient or lack of documentation, including inadequate documentation involving clinical findings, follow-up efforts, history, and telephone advice to patients.
The sixth top factor contributing to patient injury (12%) involved workflow and workload, which may occur at times of limited staffing and/or services, such as weekends, nights, and holidays, and may involve the level of activity and chaos in the emergency department.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury (or worse) as a result of emergency care (or the lack of adequate emergency care), you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigation your possible emergency room medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in an emergency medicine malpractice lawsuit, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.