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Understanding the �H� Factor in Medical Liability Insurance Cases


This article discusses humans and their impact upon office systems. As you read, you will understand what can, and does, happen when there is a break in the process at medical facilities and how important medical liability insurance is for your practice. Moreover, you will become truly cognizant of why humans are considered the weak link in the medical system.


Even the best system requires human interaction on some level. Ideally, the human factor should be removed as much as possible to decrease this risk, but since we are human, errors still occur. Typically, errors occur when staff or physicians intersect with the process. It is imperative that anyone involved with patients in healthcare understand the importance of tracking systems, as well as each step in the system. As a consequence of procedural and tracking failures, claims may be made against a physician and it is important to have a medical liability insurance policy in place.

The case discussed is real. The �H� Factor was involved, and lives were affected.

Case Scenario:

Results were received in the office and placed in the physician�s in-box for his/her review, date, initials and any recommendations for follow-up with the patient. The physician was rushed, read page one, turned to page two, didn�t see any other pertinent information, initials and dates the results, returned the results to staff and they were filed in the patient record.


The report was stapled together in the upper left corner by a staff member. The staple was placed in a location such that when the physician turned to the second page, the final results were not visible to the physician because of where the staple was located. One problem here is that the person stapling the report was rushed and placed the staple in a sloppy location where it obscured information. The second problem here is that the physician assumed it was the end of the report when there was no further information visible on the second page, even though page one did not contain wording indicating �final results/interpretation� and assumed all was normal. In those split seconds of human interaction, a life was changed.


The �H� Factor involvement in this case was the time spent by medical staff on diagnosis, which totaled less than three minutes. As a result, there was a delay in the diagnosis of the patient�s cancer. Due to this delay, the patient had a very poor prognosis, and subsequently expired. This medical liability insurance case was settled for a confidential amount.

American Physicians Insurance Company (API) is at the forefront of protecting physicians and their practices, helping our clients stay on top of changing trends in the medical industry. As a leader in medical liability insurance, API is dedicated to providing the best medical liability insurance policy and the best services in the industry.

To read the full article or to take a free Category I CME course on this topic, visit API�s Risk Management Institute at www.api-c.com

Submitted by:

Ethan Luke


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