What is emergency medicine? It focuses on the immediate decision-making and action necessary to prevent people from disability or even fatalities in an emergency setting and department. A physician working in this type of medicine is able to evaluate and care for a patient on a whole different level of care! Emergency medicine takes place in a fast-paced environment and requires a broad base of medical knowledge and technical skills.
Study in California
A study done recently in California revealed why emergency medicine physicians were so likely to be sued due to patient allegations. The reason behind this is largely due to the fact that, unlike other specialists, emergency medicine physicians treat patients that are unknown to them and have a broad range of clinical issues. The study conducted by The Doctors Company revealed that less emergency medicine physicians might be sued if they would complete a more thorough differential diagnosis for each individual patient. This is because, if an incorrect diagnosis happens and proper documentation shows that it was ruled out, a liability risk could drop significantly.
So what were the actual statistics from the conducted study? 332 emergency medicine malpractice claims were analyzed between 2007-2013 to arrive at the following data:
- 57% were diagnosis related, which includes failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, and wrongful diagnosis. The conditions that are most frequently diagnosed include acute cerebral vascular accident, MI, and spinal epidural abscess.
- 13% were improper management of treatment, which included things like failure to stabilize a patient’s neck following an accident with trauma to the head and neck.
- 5% came from improper performance of treatment or procedure, which could include poor suturing technique.
- 3% were from failure to order medication, which included things like fibrinolytic therapy not ordered, and antibiotics unordered.
There were also 6 factors contributing to patient injury in emergency medicine, which were discovered in the study. 52% were patient assessment issues, 21% were patient factors, 17% was communication among providers, 14% was communication between patient/family and providers, 13% was insufficient or lack of documentation, and 12% was workflow and workload.
Offered Tips to Help Prevent Diagnostic Errors
The study conducted by The Doctors Company also provided information on tips to help avoid diagnostic errors. The following were included:
- Avoiding first-impression or diagnoses based on intuition
- Completion of a thorough differential diagnosis for each patient
- Using diagnostic prompts when completing a differential diagnosis
- Documenting a differential diagnosis
- Making sure that all specialists who are called to evaluate emergency department patients receive a comprehensive summary of all history information, physical findings, and diagnostic studies done
- Practicing effective handoffs
Medical Malpractice Litigation Referring to Emergency Medicine
Medical malpractice, of course, requires proving that the physician had a duty, the physician breached that duty, there was harm done to the patient, and the harm was caused by the physician’s breach of duty. Emergency medicine is a high-risk specialty that carries a constant risk of malpractice and litigation and can also lead to many fears by those who practice it day-to-day. Knowing all of this, there are still special defenses that can be used in court to protect a physician. These include Good Samartian, assumption of the risk, contributory negligence, comparative fault, sudden emergency, clinical innovation, and more.
Because of the highly complex laws surrounding medical malpractice, you may want an attorney on your side if you believe you have a case. Did a physician in an emergency medicine setting allow you to become injured and you believe negligence was at play? Turn to an attorney that you trust. Call WTW today located in California to have your case assessed and see where you can go from here.