A new study has revealed mostly good news for anesthesiologists – since 2005, anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims have decreased dramatically, particularly in inpatient situations. The study, “Comparison and Trends of Inpatient and Outpatient Anesthesia Claims Reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank,” examined inpatient and outpatient anesthesia-related clinician malpractice claims between 2005 and 2013. The study was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

During the 9-year study period, anesthesia-related medical malpractice claim frequency decreased by a total of 41.4% (or 4.6% per year). Inpatient claims saw the greatest decrease (a total of 45.5%), while the decrease was significantly less in outpatient settings (a total of 23.5%). According to study author Richard J. Kelly, MD, JD, MPH, FCLM, an anesthesiologist from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, the proportion of claims for outpatient procedures has actually increased compared with inpatients, but the amount paid for outpatient claims is significantly less than for inpatient claims.

Of the 2,408 malpractice claim payments made from 2005 to 2013, the 1,841 (76.5%) were for inpatient events, and 567 (or 23.5%) were for outpatient events. The majority of claimants were women (54.4%), outpatient (57.8% versus 53.4% for inpatient), and between the ages of 40 and 59. Over 38% of all paid claims were for injuries resulting in death. The median payment for all anesthesia-related claims was $245,000, with inpatient claims being more expensive than outpatient. Median inpatient claim was $261,742 versus $189,349 for outpatient claims. Payments for inpatient claims accounted for 82.6% of total costs.