The number of successful malpractice suits against pharmacists is low compared with dentists and physicians.
As the legal profession has expanded over the past decade—more than 1.3 million attorneys now call the United States home—researchers are now beginning to watch trends in medical malpractice lawsuits by discipline.
A recent study published in the January 2017 issue of the British Dental Journal found an increase in the number of malpractice payments against dentists over an 11-year period. The study reports a simultaneous decrease in that of non-dentist health care professionals as well, and provides more specific details about malpractice suits filed against pharmacists.
The number of successful malpractice suits against dental hygienists, optometrists, pharmacists, physician assistants, podiatrists, and mental health professionals is low in comparison to dentists and physicians.
The researchers, a team from the University of Michigan, found a 13.5% reduction in malpractice payments against dentists and dental hygienists between 2004 and 2014. The decrease was a 38.5% reduction for non-dental healthcare professionals. Approximately 11% of all malpractice suits are now delivered to dentists' doors.
Disgruntled patients filed 78 malpractice suits against pharmacists in 2004. The number of cases peaked at 95 in 2009, and then fell sharply over the next few years. In 2014, patients filed 52 lawsuits against pharmacists. The year 2009 was a peak or near-peak year for psychologists and physicians, too.
The researchers examined reasons for the increase among dentists. They concluded that it could be attributed to more dentists remaining in solo practice or in small offices in comparison to other professions. Research has shown that larger hospitals and health care organizations typically produce better patient outcomes due to increased structure, best practices guidelines, and more resources to deliver cutting-edge health care.
It was not clear in the study why malpractice suits against pharmacists have fallen.