DOI: 10.1002/jhrm.21563 ISSN: 1074-4797

An analysis of medical malpractice claims against medical oncologists from a national database: Implications for safer practice

Jim W. Doolin, Adam C. Schaffer, Roy B. Tishler, Joseph O. Jacobson
  • General Medicine


Malpractice claims data include valuable information about patient safety. We used mixed methods to analyze claims against medical oncologists (MO) from 2008 to 2019 using a national database. MO claims were compared to a group of other internal medicine subspecialties (OIMS). Logistic regression was used to examine correlates of closing with an indemnity payment. A subset of claims against MO were thematically analyzed using a validated safety incident taxonomy as a framework. 456 claims against MO were compared with 5771 claims against OIMS. MO claims closed with indemnity payments 29.8% of the time versus OIMS 30.3% (p = 0.87). Median MO and OIMS indemnity payments were similar ($190,591 vs. $233,432; p = 0.20). Correlates of MO claims closing with payment included patient assessment, communication among providers, and safety and security as contributing factors. Thematic analysis identified provider cognitive error, adverse drug events and relational problems as the most common safety incidents. MO malpractice claims have similar outcomes to OIMS. We demonstrate the proof‐of‐concept of applying a safety incident taxonomy to medical malpractice. Finding ways to reduce patient exposure to provider cognitive errors, adverse drug reactions, and communication breakdowns should be strategic priorities for safer cancer care.

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