Medical Indemnity Trends - co-authored by Mark Williams and Danielle Webb

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Claim trends

In June 2013, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released the latest in a series of reports on medical indemnity claims in the public and private sectors.  The report examined claims made, current or finalised, in the 2011-12 period.

Errors in procedure represented the highest proportion of claims (nearly 35%), followed by errors in diagnosis (21%) and errors in treatment (nearly 20%).  In terms of medical specialties, procedural errors continue to contribute to the bulk of claims against general surgeons (62%),  gynaecologists (53%) and orthopaedic surgeons (72%).  Diagnostic errors remain the most common source of claims against emergency physicians (58%).

In relation to the clinical contexts of claims, general surgery represented the highest proportion of claims (21%), followed by emergency department (17%) and obstetrics (15%).  The proportion of claims accounted for by general surgery was higher in 2011-12 than in the previous four years, whereas the proportion accounted for emergency department has continually decreased for the past three years.

The data also revealed a continued increase in large claims.  In the 2010-11 reporting period, 8.7% of claims settled for over AU$500,000 which was nearly three times more than the previous reporting periods.  The most recent data shows that nearly 10% of claims settled for over AU$500,000.  That said, the percentage of claims that settled for no payment tripled from 3% to over 10% during 2011-12.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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