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Orthopedists and medical malpractice claims

Insurers conduct studies periodically in order to detect trends when it comes to claims. This includes medical malpractice insurers such as The Doctors Company. Recently, this medical malpractice insurer released results of a study regarding claims against orthopedists (doctors who specialize in bones) across the country, which might include some here in Oregon.

The company examined approximately 1,895 claims filed by patients from 2007 to 2014 against orthopedists. The goal of the study was to understand how patients were harmed and where the system broke down. Therefore, the outcome of the claims was irrelevant to the study since the insurer was only attempting to determine what types of incidents lead patients to file claims.

Around 46 percent of the claims were filed because of the patients' belief that a surgical procedure performed by an orthopedist was not done properly. Several types of surgical procedures were involved in these cases, and the study claims that the care received was not below accepted standards. Another 16 percent of the claims involved substandard postoperative care. Additional surgeries were required in these cases to make repairs to an implanted medical device or to amputate a limb. In 13 percent of the claims, there was a failure to diagnose, a wrong diagnosis or a delayed one. 

The study blamed 35 percent of the claims on the orthopedists' technical performance. The study also indicated that in 29 percent of the cases, it was the patient's unwillingness to let the doctor fix the issue; instead, the patient sought medical care elsewhere. The company stresses that communication between the physician and the patients and their families could help eliminate many of these claims.

This study appears to be more of an exoneration of the orthopedists involved by indicating that only a small portion of the claims could actually be considered medical malpractice. However, for the patients involved, the injuries suffered should most likely not have occurred. Oregon patients who believe that they received substandard care from an orthopedist should not hesitate to seek the advice of an attorney. If the circumstances warrant filing a claim, no amount of data from an insurer should keep that from happening.

Source: beckersspine.com, "10 thoughts and statistics on medical malpractice claims against orthopedists", Eric Oliver |, Aug. 11, 2016

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