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Linking errors to provider specialties

Patients in Providence County place a great deal of trust in the doctors that treat their various ailments and injuries. Typically, they are willing to invest such trust due to a clinician's educational background combined with his or her experience. Of course, no two patients are alike, and neither are the ailments they may be suffering from. As a person's medical issues become more complex, specialty providers are often required in order to render the right treatment. This may lead some to question if medical error rates are linked to provider specialties.

One way to determine this may be to review the number of medical malpractice claims filed against doctors of different specialties. Information shared by the New England Journal of Medicine shows the five most common provider specialties listed in medical malpractice claims to be:

  •          Neurosurgery
  •          Thoracic-cardiovascular surgery
  •          General surgery
  •          Orthopedic surgery
  •          Plastic surgery

This may come as little surprise to some, as one might assume that any form of surgical treatment involves a certain degree of inherent risk. However, simply because these surgical specialties were listed as the most common amongst malpractice claims does not necessarily mean that they generated the best outcomes for plaintiffs.

Becker's Hospital Review reports that $3.6 billion was paid out in medical malpractice claims in the U.S. in 2012. Interestingly enough, however, the NEJM study cited earlier did not show surgical specialties as having the highest claim payment rate (that honor belonged to gynecology). This seems to imply that simply because patients were not satisfied with the outcomes of their procedures does not mean a judge or jury can identify an element of malpractice. Effective communication between provider and patient may help to bridge the gap between differing treatment expectations.

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