Complaints against family physicians submitted to disciplinary tribunals in the Netherlands: lessons for patient safety
SourceAnnals of Family Medicine, 9, 6, (2011), pp. 522-527
Article / Letter to editor
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Primary and Community Care
Annals of Family Medicine
SubjectNCEBP 3: Implementation Science; NCEBP 7: Effective primary care and public health; NCEBP 3: Implementation Science
PURPOSE We analyzed the disciplinary law verdicts concerning family physicians, submitted to the Dutch disciplinary law system, to identify domains of high risk of harm for patients in family practice. METHODS The Dutch disciplinary law system offers patients the opportunity to file complaints against physicians outside a legal malpractice system, without possibility of financial compensation in case of verdicts in which the physician was found to be at fault. We performed an analysis of 250 random disciplinary law verdicts on Dutch family physicians submitted to disciplinary tribunals and published between 2008 and 2010. Our analysis focused on clinical domains represented in the verdicts with serious permanent damage or death. RESULTS Of the 74 complaints with a serious health outcome, 44.6% (n = 33) were related to a wrong diagnosis, 23.0% (n = 17) to insufficient care, 8.1% (n = 6) to a wrong treatment, 8.1% (n = 6) to a late arrival at a house visit, 5.4% (n = 4) to a late referral to the hospital, and 1.4% (n = 1) to insufficient information given; 9.5% (n = 7) consisted of other complaints. The wrong or late diagnosis-related cases mostly consisted of myocardial infarction and stroke (35.1%) and malignancies (33.7%). The family physician was disciplined as a result of 37 of these 74 complaints (50%). Logistic regression analysis showed that a serious outcome was associated with a higher probability of disciplinary measures (B=0.703; P =.02) CONCLUSIONS The disciplinary law system in the Netherlands differs fundamentally from a legal malpractice system. It can be used to learn from patients' complaints with a view on improving patient safety.
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