Study Shows Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Face Similar Liability Risks

NAPA, Calif., March 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- A study issued today by The Doctors Company reveals that the allegations in medical malpractice claims against nurse practitioners (NPs) do not differ radically from those made against primary care physicians.

"It is encouraging to learn that liability risks faced by nurse practitioners do not differ greatly from those faced by physicians," said Gerald Fincken, DO, family medicine physician with Austin Regional Clinic (Austin, Texas), who works with an NP. "This research shows that both physicians and NPs encounter the same challenges that may lead to adverse events and provides excellent recommendations on limiting risks and enhancing patient safety."

The study by the nation's largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer is based on nearly 1,500 claims filed against NPs and family medicine and internal medicine physicians from January 2011 through December 2016.

"With NPs expected to represent nearly a third of the family practice workforce within a few years, we felt it imperative to review these claims to determine if there were any unique NP risk management issues," noted David B. Troxel, MD, medical director of The Doctors Company and co-author of the study. "As a result of our findings, we are providing recommendations that can assist both NPs and physicians in preventing injuries identified in this study."

The main findings were:

  • Diagnosis-related and medication-related claim allegations were similar for NPs and primary care physicians.
  • The final diagnoses in diagnosis-related allegations were similar for NPs and primary care physicians.
  • Many NP claims can be traced to 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 study highlights the importance of good communication between NPs and their physician partners," said Darrell Ranum, acting senior vice president of patient safety for The Doctors Company and study co-author. "We recommend that physicians and NPs should agree on the supervision level provided by the physician and on the specific conditions that warrant the NP to refer patients to a physician."

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