A study released on August 27, 2015 by The Doctors Company, which is the largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurance company in the United States, analyzed 1,895 medical malpractice claims made against orthopedists insured by The Doctors Company that were closed between 2007 and 2014. The study determined that the three most common allegations of medical malpractice made by patients against orthopedists were improper performance of surgery, improper management of the surgical patient, and diagnosis-related issues (for example, allegations involving the failure or delay in diagnosis or the wrong diagnosis).
Unsurprisingly, the study found that medical malpractice claims that alleged that the orthopedist performed the surgery improperly were often made when the surgical outcome was different than the patient’s expectations.
The study looked beyond the medical malpractice allegations made in the closed claims to analyze and determine the factors that led to injury. The study found that the top five factors that led to an orthopedic medical malpractice claim were technical performance, patient factors, selection and management of therapy, communication between the patient/family and the provider, and patient assessment issues (for example, the failure or the delay in ordering diagnostic tests). The study found that when the patient did not follow the treatment plan or the patient missed scheduled appointments, the patient behaviors affected the outcome of care in 29% of the closed claims.
In discussing the results of the study, a medical expert stated, “These findings make it clear that healthcare teams and patients need to partner to achieve better outcomes. While improper performance of surgery was the top patient allegation, in most cases the risks had been disclosed to patients prior to the procedure, but the patient may not have understood. In nearly one third of claims, patients did not adhere to the treatment plan, and this behavior was more likely when there was inadequate communication.”
Inadequate communication between a medical provider and a patient is a real and substantial problem that can lead to a delay or failure in receiving the full benefits of medical treatment. Physicians too often talk above the comprehension level of their patients or fail to provide information because they do not understand that such information is important to their patients’ understanding and decisions regarding their medical care. Patients too often feel overwhelmed by the medical information that they are being provided when they are face-to-face with their medical providers, or they may not have sufficient awareness of the information about their medical conditions and their medical treatment options because they lack the ability to digest, understand, and analyze the information being provided to them by their medical providers.
The failure of communication between medical provider and patient is often the basis for informed consent claims (i.e., that the medical provider failed to provide the necessary information regarding a medical procedure or treatment, including the risks, benefits, and alternatives, that the patient may consider relevant and necessary in order for the patient to provide his or her informed consent for the procedure or treatment).
If you or a loved one were injured due to orthopedic medical malpractice, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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