Failures and Delays in Diagnoses Top Emergency Room Negligence Claims

by | Jun 5, 2017

Failures and delays in diagnosing illnesses and injuries accounted for more than half of the emergency room negligence claims made between 2010 and 2014.

Last week the State Claims Agency released its review of “National Clinical Incidents, Claims and Costs” covering the period between 2010 and 2014. In the publication, the nature of clinical incidents is categorised into medical, surgical, maternity, disability or elderly care. Within each category, the reasons for the most common clinical negligence claims are listed.

Within the medical negligence category, a sub-category has been created to account for clinical incidents in hospital emergency rooms and the claims that result when an adverse outcome has occurred. At the top of the list is the failure to diagnose an illness or injury and, once the number of delayed diagnoses is taken into account, the two combined account for more than 60% of emergency room negligence claims.

Overall there were more than four times as many claims for a failure or delay in diagnosing an injury or illness as there were in the second most common reason for emergency room negligence claims – the failure to treat or a delay in treatment. Other motives provided for emergency room negligence claims included foreign objects left inside a patient, soft tissue damage during the administration of treatment and avoidable reactions to known allergens.

The reasons given for their being such a high proportion of emergency room negligence claims related to diagnostic failures were the failure to perform a radiograph (or interpret the results correctly) in the case of a fracture, and incomplete medical examinations in other illness and injury scenarios. Other areas of concern included incomplete patient note taking and a lack of communication.

The aim of the review – according to the review´s lead author Dr Dubhfeasa Slattery – is to improve patient safety by analysing the most common areas of failure and implementing measures to improve patient care. It is hoped that this process – described by Dr Slattery as a “learning health system” – has a positive effect in relation to the treatment received in hospital emergency rooms and leads to a reduction in emergency room negligence claims.

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