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.