Do more medical errors happen in Virginia clinics or in hospitals?

Many people are nervous about hospital visits. Their hearts race, they have trouble breathing-some even have panic attacks at the thought of seeing a doctor. It happens so often, it has a name: "white coat syndrome."

But maybe these people have a reason to fear white coats after all.

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A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the high number of surgical errors in medical malpractice with the errors common to ambulatory or outpatient care. What should have been a significant contrast turned out to be a shocking similarity, since roughly the same number of medical malpractice claims occurred in clinics as they did in hospital stays.

The study made some interesting discoveries about clinical medical malpractice:

  • There were 10,739 medical malpractice claims paid by physicians and hospitals in 2009.
  • The number of events in inpatient (surgical) settings was roughly the same as the number of occurrences in outpatient (clinic) settings.
  • Nearly 1,000 medical malpractice cases involved mistakes in both inpatient and outpatient areas.
  • Payments for errors in outpatient settings increased by 2 percent in 4 years-a large figure in monetary terms.

While payments to the injured parties were often higher for those who suffered surgical or other inpatient errors, mistakes were just as likely to happen in clinic settings-and have just as devastating results as major procedures.

The study also identified the main reasons for medical malpractice claims in both clinics and hospitals:

  • The number one cause of paid malpractice claims in outpatient clinics is diagnostic error.
  • The most common reason for a malpractice claim while admitted is surgical error.
  • Major injury and death were the two most common consequences in both areas.

It is frightening to think that a routine visit to your primary care doctor could have the same consequences as an ER visit. While this is unfortunately a risk, you don't have to live with the consequences of someone else's mistake.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a physician or care provider, contact the experienced Fairfax medical malpractice attorneys at Shevlin Smith today at (703) 591-0067.

Michael J. Shevlin
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Specializing in medical malpractice and serious personal injury cases since 1994.