Many Primary Care Malpractice Claims Relate to Misdiagnosis

During five-year period, 72.1 percent of claims in Massachusetts related to misdiagnosis

TUESDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- From 2005 through 2009, most primary care malpractice claims in Massachusetts related to alleged misdiagnosis, according to a review published online Sept. 30 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Gordon D. Schiff, M.D., from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted a retrospective review of pooled closed claims data from two malpractice carriers from 2005 through 2009 to examine patterns of primary care malpractice types, causes, and outcomes.

The analyses included 551 claims from primary care practices, from a total of 7,224 malpractice claims. The researchers found that 72.1 percent of primary care claims were related to diagnosis, 12.3 percent to medications, 7.4 percent to other medical treatment, 2.7 percent to communication, 2.0 percent to patient rights, and 1.5 percent to patient safety or security. The main diagnoses included cancer, heart diseases, blood vessel disease, infections, and stroke. Compared with non-general medical malpractice claims, primary care cases were significantly more likely to be settled or result in a verdict for the plaintiff.

"In Massachusetts, most primary care claims filed are related to alleged misdiagnosis," the authors write. "Compared with malpractice allegations in other settings, primary care ambulatory claims appear to be more difficult to defend, with more cases settled or resulting in a verdict for the plaintiff."

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