HealthDay News — According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, there was a decrease in the rate of malpractice claims paid on behalf of physicians in the United States from 1992 to 2014, but the mean compensation amounts increased.

Adam Schaffer, MD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues analyzed all paid malpractice claims with linkage to physician specialty using data from the National Practitioner Data Bank from January 1, 1992 to December 31, 2014.

The researchers found that the rate of paid claims decreased by 55.7%, from 20.1 to 8.9 per 1000 physician-years from 1992-1996 to 2009-2014. The decrease ranged from 13.5% in cardiology to a 75.8% decrease in pediatrics. 

The mean compensation payment was $329,565, and increased by 23.3% from 1992-1996 to 2009-2014 (from $286,751 to $353,473). The increases varied from $17,431 in general practice to $114,410 in gastroenterology and $138,708 in pathology.

Overall, 7.6% of the 280,368 paid claims exceeded $1 million (6.2% in 1992 to 1996 and 8.0% in 2009 to 2014), and one-third (32.1%) involved a patient death. The most common type of allegation was diagnostic error, which was seen in 31.8% of paid claims.

“Between 1992 and 2014, the rate of malpractice claims paid on behalf of physicians in the United States declined substantially,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and to Precision Health Economics. One author disclosed ties to the Medical Mutual Insurance Co of Maine.

Reference

Schaffer AC, et al. “Rates and Characteristics of Paid Malpractice Claims Among US Physicians by Specialty, 1992-2014.” JAMA Intern Med. 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.0311 [Epub ahead of print]

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