study ids the top 5 causes of malpractice actions against internists

Most of us have a basic understanding of the many specialties and subspecialties present in the medical realm. For instance, we know that dermatologists treat skin-related conditions or that cardiologists treat heart-related conditions. Similarly, by powers of deduction, we would likely be able to determine that gynecologic oncology is a subspecialty of an OB/GYN or that nuclear radiology is a subspecialty of a radiologist.

As otherwise obvious as many specialties and subspecialties of medicine may seem, there are some that remain somewhat confusing. For instance, some people are undoubtedly confused by the idea of what an internal medicine clinician actually does.

According to the American College of Physicians, internists — not to be confused with “interns” — are trained to “prevent, find and treat illness in adults.” Furthermore, they are trained to care “for any adult sickness,” and take care of people from their teens through old age.

Accordingly, internists are often the first line of defense for many people’s medical care, and as demonstrated by a recent study in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, they are often the first named in lawsuits alleging medical malpractice.

As part of the study, researchers pulled the records for nearly 250,000 medical malpractice claims sent to the Physician Insurers Association of America between 1985 and 2009, separating out 33,747 claims made against internists.

The researchers then proceeded to rank the top five reasons for medical malpractice claims against internists:

  1. Failure to diagnose/misdiagnosis
  2. Breach of care attributable to other failures (failure to secure informed consent, equipment failure, etc.)
  3. Procedural errors
  4. Failure to properly monitor residents, nurses or physicians assistants
  5. Medication errors (wrong medication/wrong dosage, failure to monitor patient, failure to inquire about patient allergies, etc.)

While this study is very interesting, it’s important to understand that no doctor, no matter their specialty, is immune from making critical errors that can result in serious injuries or even death. If you or a family member has been victimized by what you believe to be medical negligence, do not be intimidated and consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.

Source: The Clinical Advisor, “Top 5 reasons for internal medicine malpractice suits,” Ann Later, May 20, 2014

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