Emergency medicine physicians need to understand a wide variety of common and rare medical ailments to provide proper care and treatment. A recent study reveals that, perhaps because of the broad knowledge ER doctors are expected to have, they may be exposed to a greater number of medical malpractice lawsuits than other physicians.
ER doctors are tasked with the role of quickly evaluating new patients that present with symptoms and medical issues ranging from a common cold or flu to a rare amoebic liver abscess the patient may have developed while traveling on the other side of the world. By comparison, internists and specialists tend to have longer relationships with patients and only provide care and treatment within a specific area of medicine.
The Doctors Company, the largest physician owned medical liability insurer in the United States, studied 332 emergency room negligence claims that were closed between 2007 and 2013. According to the study, most legal issues arise due to misdiagnosis or failing to diagnose. Among the findings:
- In 52% of the cases, the ER doctor’s assessment of the patient was incomplete or inaccurate, leading to a failure to diagnose or an incorrect diagnosis.
- In 21% of the cases, patient factors delayed or prevented diagnosis and treatment. For example, if an emergency room does not have equipment that accommodates obese patients, a medical issue may not be diagnosed correctly, in a timely fashion, or at all.
- A whopping 17% of the cases cited miscommunication or a lack of communication between health care providers as the basis for the ER physician’s inability to properly or timely diagnose.
- In 12% of the cases, service or lack of service on weekends and holidays prevented or delayed diagnoses and necessary care.
Other instances of professional negligence were far less frequent – improper performance of a procedure or treatment accounted for only 5% of the cases, and failure to order medicine was associated with only 3% of the claims.
Whether you seek medical care in the ER or your doctor’s office, malpractice resulting from a failure to diagnose can lead to injuries and even death. When physicians make such mistakes, they must be held liable for the consequences of their negligence.
If you or a loved one has been injured by the actions or inaction of an emergency physician or other health care provider, you need a skilled and experienced lawyer to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group today to discuss your case and right to recover.