Injury Compensation Claims for Missed Diagnoses top GP Malpractice Cases
A review prepared for the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin has found that injury compensation claims for missed diagnoses are the leading reason for GP malpractice cases.
The review – “The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review” published recently in the British Medical Journal – was compiled with the objective of establishing which areas of primary care in Ireland should be given specific attention when developing future educational strategies and risk management systems for front-line healthcare practitioners.
It found that the most common reason for GP malpractice cases were the missed or delayed diagnosis of cancer – specifically lung cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer – medication errors (in both administration and prescription) and, in children´s injury compensation claims for missed diagnoses, the failure to correctly diagnose meningitis and appendicitis.
The lead researcher for the report – Dr Emma Wallace – is herself a GP, and she acknowledged that reviewing GP malpractice cases may not be the preferred methodology to establish where the most attention was required; however, she did accept that injury compensation claims for missed diagnoses were creating an environment where GPs and front-line healthcare practitioners were acting more defensively.
The review found that more patients are being referred to consultants than before – potentially delaying a correct diagnosis and placing pressure on an under-resourced Irish health service – because of the risk of litigation should a mistake be made. Medical practitioners against whom injury compensation claims for missed diagnoses are made often experience increased stress levels, Dr Wallace said, reducing their effectiveness to diagnose correctly and placing more patients at risk.
It is hoped that “The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review” provides an insight into the nature of adverse events in hospital outpatients´ departments and GPs surgeries, and the reasons for them occurring. This would then reduce the number of injury compensation claims for missed diagnoses in Ireland and ultimately improve the standard of primary healthcare provided.