Trends in malpractice claims for obstetric and gynecologic procedures, 2005 through 2014.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Interest in medical malpractice and areas of medicolegal vulnerability for practicing obstetricians and gynecologists has grown substantially, and many providers report changing surgical practice out of fear of litigation. Furthermore, education on medical malpractice and risk management is lacking for obstetrics and gynecology trainees. Recent obstetric and gynecologic malpractice claims data are lacking. We report on recent trends in malpractice claims for obstetrics and gynecology procedures, and compare these trends to those of other medical specialties.

OBJECTIVE

We sought to evaluate recent trends in malpractice claims for obstetrics and gynecology procedures and compare these to other medical specialties.

STUDY DESIGN

A search was performed on all medicolegal claims data for obstetrics and gynecology procedures from Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2014, using the Physician Insurers' Association of America data-sharing project, which was created to identify medical professional liability trends. Data from 20 insurance carriers were reviewed based on a search using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes and unique database-specific codes.

RESULTS

Of the 10,915 total claims closed from 2005 through 2014, the majority (59.5%) were dropped, withdrawn, or dismissed. The average indemnity of the remaining paid claims (31.1%) was $423,250. The most frequently litigated procedure was operative procedures on the uterus; 27.8% of cases were paid with an average indemnity of $279,384. The procedure associated with the highest proportion of paid claims was vacuum extraction. The average indemnity for paid obstetrics and gynecology procedural claims was 27% higher than that for all medical specialties combined. Obstetrics and gynecology procedural claims had the second highest average indemnity payment and the fifth highest paid-to-closed ratio of all medical specialties.

CONCLUSION

Litigation claims for obstetrics and gynecology procedures have higher average indemnity payments and higher paid-to-closed ratios than most other medical specialties. Claims most frequently relate to gynecologic surgery, but obstetric procedures are more expensive. Possible factors may include procedural experience and unique perioperative complications. We encourage efforts addressing procedures, litigation, and quality interventions to improve outcomes, mitigate risk, and potentially lower indemnity payments.

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