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Medical malpractice does not just occur in hospitals

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, patients do not just suffer medical malpractice at hospitals, but also at doctors' offices and other outpatient facilities.

In fact, the study revealed that more than half of all medical malpractice claims that were paid in 2009 were made with respect to outpatient care. This amounted to $1.5 billion paid for medical malpractice in that year alone.

Although, there are about 30 times as many outpatient visits as inpatient visits each year, researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the number of claims of medical malpractice for outpatient procedures. One explanation may be that there are more sites offering outpatient care than there are hospitals. Also, some have speculated that the medical staff at outpatient facilities may have less patient safety training.

Almost half of the medical malpractice claims for outpatient care were with respect to medical diagnosis. Usually when a diagnosis is missed or occurs too late, several medical mistakes occurred during the process.

Another major contributor to medical malpractice claims during outpatient care is medication errors. Doctors are hoping that such errors will be avoided in the future through the use of e-prescribing and electronic medical record systems. However, these systems are in the process of being developed and perfected. Until then, patients remain at risk of medication errors during their outpatient care.

The transition from inpatient to outpatient care is another area where medical mistakes tend to be made. These mistakes often happen because hospitals, doctors and specialists fail to work together to ensure that patients are properly cared for during the transition.

It is important to keep in mind that medical malpractice claims represent only a small number of medical errors. In Florida, many people are injured each year as a result of mistakes made by medical professionals. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a medical mistake, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice claim for the personal injuries you sustained.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Time to Focus on Medical Errors Outside the Hospital," Katherine Hobson, 14 June 2011

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