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NAPA, CA –The person who never meets a stranger is highly unlikely to be an emergency physician.
The very nature of the job requires dealing effectively with patients who are previously unknown and often have numerous co-morbidities, which may or may not be revealed. Failure to diagnose and treat them effectively could mean meeting them again – in court.
A new study by The Doctors Company, the nation's largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, indicates that diagnosis-related issues are, by far, the most common causes of lawsuits against emergency physicians.
For the study, researchers looked at 332 emergency medicine claims that closed from 2007-2013. The top reasons for getting sued include:
What factors were most likely to contribute to patient injury? The study offered the following answers:
"This study indicates that the broad base of clinical problems faced by emergency physicians increases risks and highlights the importance of taking steps such as completing a thorough differential diagnosis for each patient," said David B. Troxel, MD, medical director of The Doctors Company. "If an incorrect diagnosis was to occur and documentation shows it was considered and ruled out, that may reduce the physician's liability risk. “
The Doctors Company recommended the following tips to help emergency physicians avoid diagnostic errors: