The rate of professional liability claims filed against physicians and other medical professionals is declining. There are many reasons for this including improved patient safety caused by greater oversight and stricter adherence to established regulations. However, while the rate of claims is declining, it does not mean that all problems are solved, or that patients aren’t still at risk of serious harm.
The Rate of Claims Declines
From 2007 to 2016, the rate of medical malpractice claims filed against medical professionals declined 27% from 5.1 claims were 100 physicians in 2006, to 3.7 per 100 in 2016.
The data shows that some specialties have seen dramatic decreases. For instance, the number of claims filed against obstetricians/gynecologists declined 44% over this period. The data also confirms that while the rate of paid claims involving cardiologists, pediatrics, anesthesiology, gastroenterology have decreased, they remain the most common specialties for medical malpractice claims.
Additionally, while the rate of medical malpractice claims has declined, so too has the time required to resolve cases. Over the past decade, the amount of time required to resolve these cases has declined from 29 to 27 months. It may not seem like much, but it does show a positive trend towards resolving these matters as quickly as possible.
Most Common Claims
The most common medical malpractice claims over the past 22 years show that while the rate of claims is declining, the significant impact medical malpractice has on patients remains the same. Over this period, nearly 32% of claims were caused by misdiagnosis, 27% were related to errors during surgical procedures, 25% were caused by treatment-related mistakes. Of all medical malpractice claims, 32% involved the wrongful death of a patient. Further, the data shows that while the number of claims filed and claims paid have declined, the awards paid for medical malpractice claims have risen across these specialties.
A Positive Trend?
While the number of claims filed and claims paid declines, attorneys, physicians, and patients are wondering whether it is part of a larger trend that will continue into the future. It remains to be seen whether the reduction in claims filed is because of enhanced patient safety protocols, improved oversight within healthcare facilities, or advances in medical diagnostic equipment that reduces the risk of physician error. It may be a combination of these factors.