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Michigan's Outpatient Medical Error Problem is Understated

Medical errors in hospitals have captured much of Michigan's attention in the realm of medical malpractice. However, Americans receive most of their healthcare needs in the outpatient setting - whether at the doctor's office or through in-home treatment. In fact, about 43 percent of all medical malpractice claim payouts stem through outpatient medical errors, according to a recent American Medical Association study.

Logic suggests that claims of outpatient medical malpractice will continue to rise, as rising healthcare costs cause more patients to receive their medical care outside of hospitals, to avoid bills that include not only a physician's office, but also costs from the hosting hospital. However, the focus on medical error prevention remains on the inpatient setting.

The AMA Study

The malpractice study analyzed data from 2005-2009, comparing the payouts of medical malpractice claims between inpatient and outpatient settings. While inpatient medical errors still remain the larger category for malpractice claim payouts, it only holds about a four percent higher number of claims resulting in payout, versus outpatient claims (43 percent). This gap has been steadily narrowing each year. However, the underlying of nature of the medical malpractice claims tends to differ between the two settings.

In outpatient care, medical malpractice claims are most likely to fall into the category of misdiagnosis (46 percent), while surgical errors were the most common reason for inpatient malpractice claims (34 percent). Most medical claims from both inpatient and outpatient errors resulted in major injury or wrongful death of the patient.

Whether inpatient or outpatient, medical professionals must meet the requisite standards of care in treating their patients. When a medical error harms or kills the patient, the victim or surviving family should contact a reputable personal injury attorney experienced in medical malpractice claims.

Source: jama.ama-assn.org, "Paid malpractice claims for adverse events in inpatient and outpatient settings" 2011.

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