Anesthesiologists Seeing Fewer Medical Malpractice Claims

Since 2005, anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims have decreased dramatically, according to a new study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. The study, titled, “Comparison and Trends of Inpatient and Outpatient Anesthesia Claims Reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank,” found that medical malpractice claims naming anesthesiologists as the responsible party declined more than 40 percent over the time period studied. The study examined inpatient and outpatient clinician malpractice claims that were filed between 2005 and 2013.

The study was authored by Richard J. Kelly, MD, JD, MPH, FCLM, an anesthesiologist from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. He found that during the 9 years that the medical malpractice claims were tracked, anesthesia-related claim frequency decreased by a total of 41.4 percent, or 4.6 percent per year. Inpatient claims decreased 45.5 percent, while claims from outpatient settings decreased 23.5 percent.

Over the period of the study, the amount paid for outpatient claims was significantly less than for inpatient claims. The median inpatient claim was $261,742 versus $189,349 for outpatient claims. Inpatient claims accounted for 82.6 percent of total costs paid out during the period. The median payment for all anesthesia-related claims was $245,000. Over 38 percent of all paid claims were for injuries resulting in death.

Another study found that there has been a 25 percent fall in anesthesia-related complications for women undergoing cesarean deliveries. The decrease has come even as the number of cesarean deliveries, which have an increased risk for anesthesia-related adverse events, rose over most of the study period. The trend carried throughout all settings, including large urban medical centers and small, rural hospitals. The decline in complications is mainly attributed to efforts by obstetric anesthesiologists to improve the safety and quality of care over the past several years.

The study was authored by Jean Guglielminotti, MD, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow from the Anesthesiology Department at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City. The study examined 785,854 cesarean deliveries in hospitals across New York state from 2003 to 2012. According to the data, the rate for both major and minor anesthesia-related issues fell from 8.9 per 1,000 in 2003 to 6.6 per 1,000 in 2012.

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