Patient safety efforts needed in outpatient care, study says

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 27, 2011

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More attention should be paid to reducing diagnostic errors in the outpatient setting, says a study in the June 15 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

By analyzing National Practitioner Data Bank data, researchers found the number of paid medical liability claims was similar in inpatient and outpatient settings. There are 30 times more outpatient visits than hospital discharges annually, yet most patient safety initiatives focus on inpatient care, said the study (link).

"Furthermore, the outcomes of outpatient events were not trivial -- major injury or death accounted for almost two-thirds of paid claims for events in the outpatient setting," the study said.

There were 10,739 liability claims paid on behalf of physicians in 2009. Of those, 47.6% were for inpatient care, 43.1% were for outpatient care and 9.4% involved care in both settings. The mean payment was $362,965 for inpatient claims compared with $290,111 for outpatient claims.

Most outpatient claims were related to diagnostic care, and surgical errors were the most common reason for inpatient claims.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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