The top 5 reasons for malpractice lawsuits against doctors

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Failure to diagnose a patient's medical condition is a leading cause of malpractice lawsuits.

A malpractice lawsuit is something physicians dread, but one that most will experience over the course of their career.

Facing a malpractice trial it can be an emotional ordeal—and one that lasts, as FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Insider Monkey, with help from a Medscape survey and statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put together a list of the most common causes of malpractice lawsuits brought against physicians.

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The top five reasons for malpractice suits were:

1. Failure to diagnose a patient’s medical condition. Some 31% of physicians surveyed by Medscape said this was the reason for a malpractice lawsuit brought against them, the publication said. As FierceHealthcare advised, doctors should follow professional guidelines for screening and diagnostic testing, where protocols call for confirmation of initial diagnoses. 

2. A patient injury during treatment, often resulting in disability or death. Again, 31% of physicians indicated they had been sued for injuring a patient.

3. Failure to treat a patient’s condition. This includes the occurrence of healthcare-associated infections, which a study last year suggested may be a bigger burden than diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

4. Poor documentation. Physicians must aim for accurate and complete documentation of patient care.

5. Medication errors. Medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure roughly 1.3 million people each year in the United States alone, as FierceHealthcare previously reported. Errors can vary from the initial prescription to administration of the drug, but often include dosage problems. Medication errors are such a problem, the World Health Organization is taking action to reduce these preventable adverse events worldwide.

RELATED: Disclosure of medical errors along with an apology may lead to fewer lawsuits

While doctors may think there is little they can do after making a medical mistake, hospital leaders and clinicians who own up to mistakes and work with patients after medical errors occur may actually avoid lawsuits. Empowering patients in the decision-making process is also a way to reduce medical errors.