A recent study entitled “Nurse Practitioner Closed Claims Study” involving 67 closed medical malpractice claims against nurse practitioners (“NP”) from January 2011 through December 2016 that was published by The Doctors Company, the largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurance company in the United States, found that the three most common medical malpractice allegations against NP were diagnosis-related (failure, delay, wrong) – 48%; medication-related – 24%; and, medical treatment related (16%).
The study stated, “The diagnosis- and medication-related allegation percentages were similar for NPs and primary care physicians while medical treatment-related allegations were more common for primary care physicians.”
The study found, “For diagnostic-related allegations, the mean indemnity paid was essentially the same for NP and physician claims, and the median indemnity payments were similar.”
The study found that diagnosis-related medical malpractice allegations against NP accounted for 48% of claims made against NP: of these, 42% involved the diagnosis of malignancy. Other common diagnosis-related allegations include acute myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, and arterial embolism.
With regard to diagnosis-related medical malpractice claims, the top six diagnoses were the same for NP and primary care physicians, except for colon cancer (NP) and prostate cancer (primary care physicians).
With regard to medication-related medical malpractice allegations involving NP, 63% involved improper medication management and 25% involved ordering the wrong medication. The most common type of injury in improper medication management claims against NP was adverse reactions to medications (80%).
Medical treatment allegations against NP represented 16% of the NP medical malpractice claims (compared to 29% for family medicine and internal medicine physicians).
The study found that the top six patient injuries were the same for NP and primary care physicians, except for hospitalization (NP) and emotional trauma (primary care physicians). Death was the top injury claimed against NP (22 claims (33%)) and against family care and internal medicine physicians (539 claims (40%)).
The study found that patient injury severity was nearly the same for NP compared to family practice and internal medicine physicians.
The study found that the frequency of patient assessment issues was similar to that of diagnosis-related allegations for both NP (48% of medical malpractice claims) and family practice and internal medicine physicians (41%): the study suggested that patient assessment issues are a major contributor to diagnosis-related injury.
The study found that while the medical malpractice claims frequency was very low for NP from 2008 through 2016, it has gradually increased over that period of time. In contrast, the frequency of medical malpractice claims filed against physicians during that same period of time decreased, and somewhat leveled off over the last three years of the study period.
The study stated that the growing need for primary care services will be increasingly filled by NP, not primary care physicians. In 2017, there were about 234,000 licensed NP in the United States. Of those, 86.6% were certified in primary care and 95.8% were prescribing medications.
While about 8,000 new primary care physicians enter practice every year (by 2020, about 8,500 will retire every year), it is projected that physicians will comprise 60% of the family practice workforce and NP will comprise 29%, by 2025.
The study notes that its NP medical malpractice claims analysis is statistically limited by the relatively small number of medical malpractice claims against NP.
If you or a loved one suffered harm as a result of the medical negligence of a nurse practitioner in the United States, you should promptly find a nurse practitioner malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your nurse practitioner malpractice claim for you and represent you or a loved one in a nurse practitioner medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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