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The relationship between practice area and malpractice claims

Advances in medical science in recent years have made it possible for patients in Providence to receive higher levels of health care than ever before. Yet despite this potential for quality care, every year there are countless malpractice claims filed by patients who believed that they have suffered due to the negligence of their doctors. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, nearly $3.6 billion was paid out in settlement of over 12,100 malpractice claims in 2012. These numbers seem staggering, particularly given the fact that at the same time, overall patient satisfaction with health care has gone up. A review of which medical practice areas see the most malpractice claims may shed some light on reason behind these high numbers.

A 2011 study shared in the New England Journal of Medicine detailed the trends seen in medical malpractice claims filed between 1991 to 2003. The breakdown of those claims according to medical practice was as follows: 

  • Neurosurgery: 19.1 percent 
  • Thoracic-cardiovascular surgery: 18.9 percent
  • General surgery: 15.3 percent
  • Family medicine: 5.2 percent
  • Pediatrics: 3.1 percent
  • Psychiatry: 2.6 percent

That complex fields such as neurology and cardiology appear so high on this list may not come as a surprise given that these fall into the category of high-risk practice areas. However, that’s not to say that the providers in this field are any less-skilled; it’s simply the fact that complex procedures offer a higher possibility of errors occurring.

While doctor error is inevitable in any field, hospitals and medical organizations have placed an increased emphasis on preventing errors specifically in high-risk practice areas. Patients may also contribute to this prevention through good communication with their doctors.

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