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The Greatest Vulnerabilities During Surgical Episode of Care


New Coverys Report identifies root causes of surgery-related claims and strategies to improve patient safety.

Surgical claims

Coverys, a leading provider of medical professional liability insurance, recently released its latest Dose of Insight report on surgery-related malpractice signals.

The report analyzes five years of closed malpractice claims data - from 2014 through 2018 - to provide surgeons and other healthcare professionals with fresh perspectives, data-driven insights, and more effective strategies to meet the needs of their surgical patients, according to a news release.
In an era of productivity and profitability, surgeons and their support teams are challenged to do more with less time. Resources can be stretched thin during periods of emergency, such as when operating room schedules and surgical teams are changed with short notice.

This latest report identifies specific areas of the greatest vulnerability during the surgical episode of care - from preoperative considerations to postoperative recovery and discharge - and offers strategies to improve patient safety and reduce risk at each stage.

Related: Medical Malpractice Becoming More Costly

Key findings and recommendations from the surgery report include:

  • 25% of the more than 10,000 closed medical malpractice claims analyzed cited a surgical allegation. This is second only to diagnosis-related allegations.

  • 78% of surgical allegations were related to practitioner performance during the surgery itself.

  • 47% of claims from more than 50 surgical specialties involve just three specialties: General Surgery (22%), Orthopedic Surgery (17%), and Neurosurgery (8%).

  • Standardization and practice contribute to successful outcomes. Because surgery is highly complex and full of variability, routine and rigor are vitally important.

  • There are specific process vulnerabilities at each stage in the surgical episode of care and unique challenges related to the top three specialties which experience claims. Understanding and working to address these vulnerabilities and challenges can help improve patient outcomes. 

“Practitioners can positively impact patient safety if they focus their efforts on optimal patient selection, consideration of alternatives to surgery, and striking the right balance between not rushing to an unnecessary procedure and not causing undue delay in performing surgery,” says Ann Burke, senior director, risk management, Coverys, and co-author of the report. “Well-organized patient handoffs, consistency, education, and good communication at every step in the surgical episode of care will be vital to improve patient care and reduce risk.”

Additional strategies are included in the report, which are available to view on Coverys website here.
This is the fifth report in Coverys’ Dose of Insight series, with previous issues covering medication errorsdiagnostic accuracyobstetrics, and the emergency department

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