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Lessons Learned from the IHS and Tribal Health Care - Medical Malpractice Tort Claim Experience

Missed or delayed diagnosis and/or mismanagement of commonly encountered medical conditions account for the majority of tort claims filed in relation to care provided at IHS and tribal facilities. Surgical and perinatal incidents account for an additional 27% of the tort claims. Most tort claims reflect adverse outcomes that result in permanent injury or death of the involved patient. Most tort claims arise from incidents at hospital-based facilities with a wider rage of services, including emergency room care, operating rooms, and higher volume obstetrical deliveries. Ambulatory health centers only encounter an occasional tort claim, reflecting the lower volume of care and lack of higher-risk patient interventions. However, no facility or provider is immune from being involved in a federal malpractice tort claim, and many risk management issues are common to allegations of improper medical care. Better awareness of these common issues may help to improve patient care outcomes and protect health care practitioners from clinical performance that is not defensible in a court of law.

Additional information about risk management, medical liability, and the tort processes followed in the Federal health care system can be found in the following references:

  1. Heath SW. Risk Management and Medical Liability. A Manual for Indian Health Service and Tribal Health Care Professionals, Second Edition, April 2006.
  2. Heath SW, Hooper EY. Processing Federal malpractice tort claims and reporting to the National Practitioner Data Bank. The IHS Primary Care Provider. October 2005. [PDF - 742 KB]