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Knowledge Center Items Physicians and Nurses Face Similar Medical Malpractice Claims: Study

Physicians and Nurses Face Similar Medical Malpractice Claims: Study

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A recent study shows that nurse practitioners (NPs) face similar professional liability risks as primary care physicians. NPs are increasingly taking on the traditional role of physicians in performing primary care services, freeing up doctors to see more patients and focus on those patients requiring complex care. In fact, NPs have become essential providers of primary care throughout the healthcare delivery system, with increasing numbers of independent physicians and physician group practices employing or contracting with nurse practitioners to manage and provide collaborative and/or independent primary care within their practices. As a result, NPs are encountering the same challenges that could potentially lead to adverse events resulting in a lawsuit.

The study, conducted by The Doctor Company, is the result of analysis of nearly 1,500 claims filed against NPs and family medicine and internal medicine physicians from January 2011 through December 2016. The study found that diagnosis-related and medication-related claim allegations were similar for NPs and primary care physicians, and the final diagnoses in diagnosis-related allegations were similar for NPs and primary care physicians.

In addition, and also important to note, is that many NP professional liability insurance claims stem from clinical and administrative factors such as failure to adhere to the NP scope of practice, absence of or deviation from written protocols, and inadequate physician supervision.  This underscores the importance of and need for strong communication between the nurse and physician. Other risk management strategies to employ to stem potential medical malpractice claims include:

  • Review and comply with the relevant state regulations pertaining to the scope of practice for nurse practitioners
  • Review and comply with any additional state-specific regulatory authority requirements governing nurse practitioner scope of practice
  • Maintain effective collaborative and/or physician supervision agreements that are, at a minimum, as specific and formalized as may be required under relevant state regulations
  • Review and comply with established clinical protocols, guidelines, treatment standards, or critical pathways for practice setting and/or clinical specialty
  • Ensure that collaborating and supervising professionals, nurse partners, and facilities employing or contracting with the nurse practitioner maintain appropriate professional liability insurance limits as may be required by practice setting or state law or regulations

RPS specializes in providing the healthcare industry with professional liability insurance solutions, and can help design a policy for your insured.

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