Background Little is known about the incidence or significance of diagnostic error in the inpatient setting. We used a malpractice claims database to examine incidence, predictors and consequences of diagnosis-related paid malpractice claims in hospitalised patients.
Methods The US National Practitioner Database was used to identify paid malpractice claims occurring between 1 January 1999 and 31 December 2011. Patient and provider characteristics associated with paid claims were analysed using descriptive statistics. Differences between diagnosis-related paid claims and other paid claim types (eg, surgical, anaesthesia, medication) were assessed using Wilcoxon rank-sum and χ2 tests. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify patient and provider factors associated with diagnosis-related paid claims. Trends for incidence of diagnosis-related paid claims and median annual payment were assessed using the Cochran-Armitage and non-parametric trend test.
Results 13 682 of 62 966 paid malpractice claims (22%) were diagnosis-related. Compared with other paid claim types, characteristics significantly associated with diagnosis-related paid claims were as follows: male patients, patient aged >50 years, provider aged <50 years and providers in the northeast region. Compared with other paid claim types, diagnosis-related paid claims were associated with 1.83 times more risk of disability (95% CI 1.75 to 1.91; p<0.001) and 2.33 times more risk of death (95% CI 2.23 to 2.43; p<0.001) than minor injury, after adjusting for patient and provider characteristics. Inpatient diagnostic error accounted for $5.7 billion in payments over the study period, and median diagnosis-related payments increased at a rate disproportionate to other types.
Conclusion Inpatient diagnosis-related malpractice payments are common and more often associated with disability and death than other claim types. Research focused on understanding and mitigating diagnostic errors in hospital settings is necessary.
- diagnostic errors
- patient safety
- hospital medicine
- medical error
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Contributors All authors contributed to the project conception, data analysis, manuscript drafting and revision. Each author has approved the final manuscript version and is accountable for all aspects of the work.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.