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Diagnostic Errors Are the Leading Type of Malpractice Claim

Diagnosis-related payments from 1986 to 2010 totaled $38.8 billion

WEDNESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- In the past 25 years, diagnostic errors have been the leading type of malpractice claim and account for the highest proportion of total payments, according to a study published online April 22 in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Ali S. Saber Tehrani, Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed 350,706 paid malpractice claims from the National Practitioner Data Bank (1986 to 2010) to characterize the frequency, health outcomes, and economic consequences of diagnosis-related claims.

The researchers found that the leading type of error was diagnostic errors (28.6 percent), which accounted for the highest proportion of total payments (35.2 percent). Death, significant permanent injury, major permanent injury, and minor permanent injury were the most frequent outcomes from the errors. Compared with other allegation groups, diagnostic errors more often resulted in death (40.9 versus 23.9 percent; P < 0.001). Diagnostic error claims were significantly more common among outpatients than inpatients (68.8 versus 31.2 percent), but diagnostic errors among inpatients were significantly more likely to be lethal (48.4 versus 36.9 percent). The 25-year sum of diagnosis-related payments was $38.8 billion (inflation-adjusted) with a mean per-claim payout of $386,849).

"Among malpractice claims, diagnostic errors appear to be the most common, most costly and most dangerous of medical mistakes," the authors write.

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