New study sheds light on medical malpractice issues

These days, its increasingly common for patients to put their trust in a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA). NPs and PAs often take up the slack in a medical practice that is overburdened, handling routine office visits and acute care. Patients may not necessarily want to see an NP or PA instead of their regular doctor, but capitulate simply because its the only appointment they can get without waiting for months.

Both NPs and PAs are qualified medical professionals — to a point. However, they lack the depth of knowledge and training that doctors have — and that may lead to serious diagnostic mistakes. According to a new study by The Doctors Co., the most common medical malpractice complaints leveled against both NPs and PAs are related to errors in diagnosis.

The study, which examined hundreds of closed malpractice claims against NPs and PAs between 2012 and 2017, found that about 40% of the claims were leveled against NPs. The other 60% were directed at PAs.

What was the single biggest problem patients face? Half of the claimants felt that they had received inadequate medical assessments that ultimately caused a delay in a correct diagnosis and treatment or a total failure of appropriate care.

Some of the problems patients encountered included the failure on the part of the NP or PA to do the following:

  • Take an adequate medical history
  • Do a complete exam
  • Order necessary diagnostic tests
  • Follow up on abnormal results when testing was obtained
  • Consider and rule out differential diagnoses

In addition, 22% of claims against PAs and 25% of those against NPs resulted from a failure on the part of the NP or PA to read the patient’s chart or communicate important concerns about their health back to the supervising physician.

Many patients don’t have a choice about whether they see an NP or PA when they head to their doctor’s office. If you believe that your doctor’s office let you down, find out more about your legal options today.