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Medical malpractice suits against hospitalists more common

According to a senior vice president with The Doctors Company, which is the largest U.S. provider of medical malpractice insurance for physicians, hospital-based physicians face a higher number of malpractice claims than primary care physicians. Medical malpractice claims against hospitalists also tend to carry a higher dollar value. This disparity between physicians working in different environments has led insurance companies to craft separate policies for the approximately 35,000 hospitalists.

Why are hospitalists, who receive the same training as other medical doctors, at higher risk of malpractice suits? Medscape Today suggests several reasons for the difference. When patients are admitted to a hospital, the hospitalist generally takes over the role of the primary care physician. Primary physicians build relationships with their patients by learning how they communicate and gathering background information. Hospitalists lack these resources, which is a problem often compounded by greater job stress. The stress factor was highlighted by a Johns Hopkins survey of hospitalists. It showed that 40 percent of doctors believed hospital admittances routinely went above safe levels. Almost as many doctors claimed this occurred once per week.

Another key difference noted by Medscape was patient health. On average, admittance to a hospital signifies a worse or more delicate health situation. In other words, hospital-based physicians tend to see patients at their worst.

Operating conditions at a hospital play a large role in patient safety. Those who are injured due to hospital negligence in maintaining a safe number of patients may be left left with increased medical expenses, injuries and even permanent disability. Victims of hospital negligence may be able to receive compensation with the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, "As number of hospitalists soars, so do lawsuits against them," Ashley Gold, March 22, 2013

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