Review of Ophthalmology Medical Professional Liability Claims in the United States from 2006 through 2015
© 2018 American Academy of Ophthalmology Purpose: To describe characteristics of closed medical professional liability (MPL) claims against ophthalmologists in the United States. Design: Retrospective analysis of MPL claims from 2006-2015. Data were obtained from the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA) Data Sharing Project (DSP). Comparison was made between ophthalmology and all healthcare specialties for physician demographics, prevalence and costs associated with closed claims, and resolution of claims. The most prevalent chief medical factor, presenting medical condition, operative procedure, outcomes, and resolution of ophthalmology claims were compared between the 2006-2010 and 2011-2015 periods. Participants: From 2006-2015, 90 743 MPL claims were closed: 2.6% (2325/90 743) of closed claims and 2.2% (564/24 670) of all paid claims were against ophthalmologists. Methods: Retrospective analysis of MPL claims captured by the PIAA DSP over a 10-year period. Main Outcome Measures: Subspecialty pertaining to the claim, number of claims closed and paid, indemnity paid, allocated loss adjustment expenses, chief medical factor, presenting medical condition, operative procedure, outcome, and resolution. Results: Only 24% of closed claims against ophthalmologists resulted in payment. Two-thirds were dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed. Ninety percent of claims that received a verdict were favorable toward the ophthalmologist. Cataract and cornea surgeries were the most prevalent and most costly operative procedures, accounting for 50% of all claims and $47 641 376 and $32 570 148 in total paid indemnity, respectively. Average indemnity was higher for corneal procedures ($304 476) than vitreoretinal procedures ($270 141) or oculoplastic procedures on the eyelid ($222 471) or orbit and eyeball ($183 467). The prevalence and cost of claims related to endophthalmitis declined from 2006-2010 (n = 38/1160 [3.3%]; average indemnity, $516 875) period to the 2011-2015 (n = 26/1165 [2.2%]; average indemnity, $247 083) period. Average indemnity paid ($280 227 vs. $335 578) and amount spent on legal defense ($41 450 vs. $46 391) was slightly lower among ophthalmologists compared with all healthcare specialties, respectively. Conclusions: Ophthalmology has a relatively low number of malpractice claims reported compared with other healthcare specialties and shows less spending on average indemnity and defense. Further studies are needed to investigate the reasons for the higher prevalence of claims related to cataract and corneal surgeries and the higher average indemnity paid for corneal procedures relative to vitreoretinal or oculoplastic procedures.
Thompson, AC; Parikh, PD; Lad, EM
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