American Academy of Emergency Medicine

EM Training Improves Malpractice Experience

J Emerg Med 2000 Aug 1;19(2):99-105
Malpractice occurrence in Emergency Medicine: Does residency training make a difference?
Branney SW, Pons PT, Markovchick VJ, Thomasson GO
Denver Health Residency in Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Denver, CO

We evaluated the effects of Emergency Medicine (EM) residency training, EM board certification, and physician experience on the occurrence of malpractice claims and indemnity payments. This was a retrospective review of closed malpractice claims from a single insurer. Outcome measures included the occurrence of claims resulting in indemnity, indemnity amounts, and defense costs. Differences in the outcome measures were compared based on: EM residency training, EM board certification, EM residency training versus other residency training, and physician experience using both univariate and multivariate analyses. There were 428 closed EM claims with indemnity paid in 81 (18.9%). Indemnity was paid in 22.4% of closed claims against non-EM residency-trained physicians, and in only 13.3% against EM residency-trained physicians (p = 0.04). The total indemnity was $6,214,475. Non-EM trained physicians accounted for $4,440,951 (71.5%), EM residency-trained physicians accounted for $1,773,524 (28.5%). The average indemnity was $76,721 and the average defense cost was $17,775. There were no significant differences in the mean indemnity paid per closed claim or the mean cost to defend a closed claim when comparing EM-trained and non-EM residency-trained physicians. The total cost (indemnity + defense costs) per physician-year of malpractice coverage was $4,905 for non-EM residency-trained physicians and $2,212 for EM residency-trained physicians. EM residency-trained physicians account for significantly less malpractice indemnity than non-EM residency-trained physicians. This difference is not due to differences in the average indemnity but is due to significantly fewer closed claims against EM residency-trained physicians with indemnity paid. This results in a cost per physician-year of malpractice coverage for non-EM residency-trained physicians that is over twice that of EM residency-trained physicians.