Volume of paid outpatient malpractice claims underscores need for greater patient safety efforts in this area

Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376

The outpatient setting generates as many paid malpractice claims as the inpatient setting, reveals a new study. In 2009, there were 4,910 claims paid for events in the outpatient setting, compared to 4,448 inpatient paid claims, according to a Weill Cornell Medical College research team. Paid claims in the inpatient setting averaged $362,965 vs. $290,111 for outpatient claims. The outcomes of outpatient events were not trivial—major injury or death accounted for almost two-thirds of paid claims for events in the outpatient setting.

The most common reason for a paid claim in the outpatient setting was diagnostic (45.9 percent), and surgery in the inpatient setting (34.1 percent). The number of claims decreased significantly from 2005 to 2009, but the rate of decline was greater in the inpatient setting (from 6,515 in 2005 to 4,910 in 2009) than the outpatient setting (from 5,511 in 2005 to 4,448 in 2009).

The study's findings provide empirical support for suggestions that patient safety initiatives should focus on the outpatient setting, not just on inpatient care. Also, more attention should be paid to adverse events related to diagnostic errors. This study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS18546).

See "Paid malpractice claims for adverse events in inpatient and outpatient settings," by Tara F. Bishop, M.D., Andrew M. Ryan, Ph.D., and Lawrence P. Casalino, M.D., Ph.D., in the June 15, 2011, Journal of the American Medical Association 305(23), pp. 2427-2431.

Current as of December 2011
Internet Citation: Volume of paid outpatient malpractice claims underscores need for greater patient safety efforts in this area: Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376. December 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/dec11/1211RA6.html