Are Physician’s Assistants More Likely To Commit Medical Malpractice than Doctors?

medical-malpractice.jpgA new study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Physicians Assistants finds that a majority of emergency room doctors do not believe the Physician Assistant’s (PA’s) are not more likely to commit malpractice. The study questioned 1000 members of the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2004 and then again five years later. 72% of doctors disagreed or strongly disagreed that PA’s were more likely to commit malpractice and the number dropped to 68% in 2009. The study also stated that doctors believe increased utilization of PA’s in emergency rooms may improve patient communication, decrease wait times, increase patient satisfaction, and therefore decrease malpractice risk.

Doctors in the study said they felt the most important factors in decreasing the risk of malpractice with PA’s was increased clinical experience, completion of post-graduate residency programs, and appropriate supervision by physician.

As a Georgia Medical Malpractice Attorney I can only hope this study is accurate as both PA’s and nurse practitioners are being used more and more frequently in most areas of health care, and I have seen the horrific consequences that can result from medical malpractice. Over 225,000 people die each year due to medical malpractice, with nearly half of those being in the emergency room, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. In fact, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

Additionally, the cost of medical malpractice on society is extremely high, but not where you might think. With the ever increasing spending by special interest groups like the American Medical Association and U.S. Chamber of Commerce on advertising campaigns for so called “tort reform,” Americans generally only hear about the rising cost of medicine do to “frivolous lawsuits” raising the cost of medical malpractice insurance. In actuality while medical cost in this country have increased 113 % since 1987, the amount on medical malpractice insurance has increased by just 52 %. The real harm is in other areas, medical malpractice cases cost to society in terms of health care, disability, lost income, lost household production and the cost of the personal care are estimated to be between 17 and 29 billion. In contrast, the medical liability system cost just 6.7 billion annually.

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