Diagnostic communication failures up malpractice payments 40%

Failing to communicate clinical data from the growing field of diagnostic testing puts physicians at risk for medical malpractice claims, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR). Using data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, researchers at New York's SUNY Downstate Medical Center found that malpractice payments related to diagnosis increased by about 40 percent from 1996 to 2003.

Although diagnostic physicians have the responsibility to notify referring clinicians about urgent or unexpected results, there can be communication failures. Physicians and patients might not receive results, report findings may be delayed, and there may by lengthy turnaround time. Together, these three communication failures across all specialties totaled $91 million in payouts in 2010, compared to $21.7 million in 1991, with an average annual increase of $4.7 million, according to a press release.

Dr. Brian D. Gale, assistant professor of radiology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and other researchers recommended that semi-automated critical test result management systems can help remedy notification issues, by improving notification reliability, improving work flow and patient safety, and, when necessary, providing legal documentation.

To learn more:
- read the press release
- here's the study abstract

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