Where doctors make the most treatment errors

The medical services of the statutory health insurance have presented the damage balance of medical malpractices. However, only the tip of the iceberg came to light.

The medical services of the legal health insurance (GKV) presented recently for the year 2015 the balance of expertly uncovered treatment errors. In total, they went beyond 14.800 accusations of incorrect treatment according to. In about one in four cases, this suspicion was confirmed. However, only the proverbial tip of the iceberg was uncovered. The results are not representative, he said, because there is no mandatory reporting of treatment errors.

With the Patients’ Rights Act introduced three years ago, the number of treatment error allegations has increased from year to year, explained Dr. Stefan Gronemeyer, Senior Physician and Deputy Managing Director of the Medical Service of the National Association of Health Insurance Funds (MDS). This is confirmed by the recently presented annual statistics 2015 of the treatment error assessment of MDS and Medical Service of the Health Insurance (MDK).

Gronemeyer emphasized in this regard: “Insured persons must know that they have a legal right to support from their health insurance company in clarifying a suspected treatment error. The health insurance fund advises and, if necessary, commissions the MDK to prepare a medical expert report. The assessment is unbiased and interest-neutral. It is free of charge for the insured.”

Most of the allegations concern clinics and operations

According to the MDS, the patient only has a chance of compensation if the specialist determines, on the basis of the patient’s findings and memory record, that there has been an error in treatment and that damage has been caused as a result. Of the 14 cases examined last year.828 suspected treatment errors – in 2014, there were 14.663 cases – 4.064 and 27.3 percent respectively as justified.

As Professor Dr. Astrid Zobel, leading physician social medicine with the medical service of the health insurance in Bavaria, further described, concerned two thirds of the reproaches treatments in the stationary supply mostly in hospitals. Here, as last year, the focus was also on surgical interventions that patients were not entirely comfortable with.

Of the 9.899 in the inpatient area (of which 7.693 cases examined in the operating room) 26.1 percent showed up as treatment errors. In the outpatient area, there were 4.905 allegations. This resulted in a rate of treatment errors with damage of 29.6 percent.

There was a high error rate in nursing and dentistry

When allegations of malpractice are broken down by specialty, orthopedics and surgery accounted for 54 percent. Most treatment errors occurred in the subarea of orthopedics and trauma surgery. The error rate here was 28.3 percent out of 4.695 cases investigated. A striking error rate of 52.5 percent in the area of nursing, in which 768 complaints were made.

Also in dentistry with 1.101 cases, the rate is above average at 41 percent. The MDK representatives also listed a number of so-called “never events” – treatment errors that are actually easy to avoid but have serious consequences. This applies, for example, to materials forgotten during operations (such as a needle) or a nerve accidentally sewn onto a joint. In total, there were 225 recognized cases.

Overall, treatment errors resulted in 3.156 cases of treatment, i.e. around 21 percent of all reported cases, resulted in damage to the patient. Specifically, mistreatments were found in 2.080 patients were the cause of temporary damage and in 913 cases of permanent damage. Furthermore, 38 patients had to undergo life-saving measures due to treatment errors. 125 patients died as a result of faulty treatment.

Around the topic of patients’ rights

However, Gronemeyer and Zobel repeatedly pointed out during the presentation that no real conclusions could be drawn from the only rudimentary numerical data available. That’s why it makes no sense to put the errors discovered in relation to the millions of medical treatments carried out every year. But for patient safety, he says, it is essential to analyze errors and identify sources of error. “This is not about blaming, but about developing strategies to avoid mistakes,” Zobel said. Here the MDK data could help.

Detailed information about the rights you have as a patient if you suspect a treatment error is contained in the two-page flyer “What you should know as a patient”, which can be downloaded free of charge from MDK. In private health insurance (PHI), private health insurers handle complaints about suspected medical malpractice, as a spokesperson for the Private Health Insurance Association explained.

Comprehensive information on the topic of patients’ rights as a whole is contained in the 86-page brochure “Ratgeber fur Patientenrechte” (Guide to Patients’ Rights), which can be downloaded or ordered from the German Federal Ministry of Health. Information on the subject of patients’ rights is provided by the Unabhangige Patientenberatung Deutschland (UPD), a non-profit limited company commissioned by the legislature to provide objective and free information to citizens on all aspects of health, including advice and the web portal.

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