A study published in June 2011 provided a somewhat unexpected result – doctor’s offices and hospitals are equally as likely to be sued for medical malpractice. This finding is surprising because the majority of patient safety initiatives focus on inpatient care at hospitals. The finding of this study, however, indicates a need for the focus to shift to outpatient settings as well. The Journal of the American Medical Association study can be found here.
In 2009, of approximately 11,000 medical malpractice payments made on behalf of physicians, close to half stemmed from errors occurring in doctor’s offices. The study revealed that while hospitals and doctor’s offices are equally as likely to face medical malpractice suits – the error or negligence behind those suits differ. In hospitals, malpractice most often results from unsuccessful surgery giving rise to negative outcomes. In doctor’s offices, on the other hand, incorrect diagnosis is most often to blame. While this indicates the necessity that doctor’s offices adopt the same kind of checklists and systems that have been in place in hospitals for many years, it also demonstrates how essential it is that outpatient care standards become a greater focus in the medical community.
Other reports have indicated that for every one hospital discharge, there are as many as thirty outpatient visits. A ratio of this magnitude displays the seriousness of any chronically deficient care in physician’s offices.