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  • Malpractice Claims Report Shows Increases for PTs, PTAs

    The growth of the physical therapy profession over the past 5 years seems to be bringing another increase with it—the cost of malpractice claims filed against physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs).

    According to a new report from Healthcare Providers' Service Organization (HPSO), between 2011 and 2015, payments for malpractice claims rose to $42 million. The previous HPSO study, published in 2011, reported a total of $44 million in malpractice payments, but the older study period spanned 10 years, not 5.

    In terms of the kinds of allegations made against PTs and PTAs, claims of improper management over the course of physical therapy treatment nearly doubled during the study period. Now at 22.5%, the management category represents the largest percentage of closed claims, compared with allegations related to manual therapy, failure to supervise or monitor, improper use of therapeutic exercise, and improper use of a biophysical agent.

    HPSO's examples of improper management include failure to follow practitioner orders, failure to obtain informed consent, failure to complete a proper patient assessment, failure to cease treatment following excessive/unexpected pain, and failure to report the patient's condition to the referring practitioner.

    HPSO provides malpractice and liability insurance to PTs, and is a strategic business partner of APTA. The claim report update is published by HPSO in partnership with CNA, and is designed to help PTs better understand and assess their professional risk and ways to reduce exposure.

    "APTA is committed to a collaborative effort to achieving positive outcomes for patients and the physical therapy profession," said APTA CEO J. Michael Bowers in an HPSO news release. "The report will greatly assist our members in enhancing their risk management practices."

    APTA offers several resources to help PTs and PTAs understand and manage risk, including a Risk Management webpage, and the online APTA Center for Integrity in Practice.


    • Unfortunately what has also come along with the increase in malpractice payouts is a significant increase in premium rates charged to therapist and/or practices by insurers such as HPSO. I certainly hope this trend does not continue in the same direction especially since health insurers are continuing to cut reimbursements to therapists. This is becoming a double whammy as we see costs increase while reimbursements decrease; certainly not the trend we want to see in the future.

      Posted by Gregory Waite on 3/9/2016 3:50 PM

    • Our profession has a tradition of very few complaints. Over the past 5 years, the only changes made to the profession are the rapid increases in documentation demands. There are still 24 hours in a day. We can either spend them with the patient, or with our computer.

      Posted by Brian P. D'Orazio DPT, MS, OCS on 3/9/2016 10:10 PM

    • Point of perspective... http://health.usnews.com/health-news/managing-your-healthcare/healthcare/articles/2010/09/07/cost-of-medical-malpractice-tops-55-billion-a-year-in-us

      Posted by Bob Schroedter on 3/10/2016 12:01 AM

    • When looking at the examples of improper management, "failure to cease treatment following excessive/unexpected pain." Unfortunately some pain is part of the process and it's frightening to think that a patient can file a malpractice suit based on a completely subjective measure such as pain. Obviously, we want to limit the severity of pain with our patients but this may put therapists at a disadvantage in terms of progressing a patient especially if that particular patient has the false impression that they can always remain pain free. It runs the risk of turning our profession into a Burger King type "Have it your way" situation instead of using evidence-based practice to customize treatment plans to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.

      Posted by Holly Shilling on 3/10/2016 12:00 PM

    • It seems to me like increases for documentation might be a factor to malpractice claims. Especially with the new ICD10 regulations. Perhaps getting scribes in facilities to help facilitate documentation, and maybe the malpractice claims will begin to decrease.

      Posted by Andrey Diaz on 3/10/2016 5:29 PM

    • Interesting that the complaints usually comes from improper management. I believe our professionals need to be reviewed on this aspect. I'm pretty sure it would help lower the number of cases on improper management if it doesn't totally eliminate it.

      Posted by Jen - Medical Malpractice on 7/4/2016 4:47 PM

    • How many claims were actually paid out for physical therapy malpractice claims in: 2015-_________

      Posted by Irvin B. Nodland on 11/2/2016 8:29 AM

    • I work in a nursing home and many times during the day the nursing staff will ask us to assist with a transfer with patient who is not on case load. I spoke with my direct supervisor about this and she got very upset with me and told me that we can verbally assist with the patient and should at least reposition the patient after the transfer is done. I have a big problem with this since I know I would be putting my license at stake if I do the above. Please e-mail me something that I could show my supervisor that would help me in this matter. Thank you, Carol Honig PT

      Posted by Carol Honig on 6/22/2017 12:50 PM

    • I saw a physical therapist after a shoulder manipulation, I went in happy I could rise my arms and could do all the exercises ask of me. than a therapist started stretching the arm and shoulder of course she got to a point were it started hurting. But I felt no pain no gain and took it but she kept hurting me more and pulling on my arm I kept telling her she was hurting me but she didn't stop. I than tried to pull my arm away from her but she took my arm and forced it down to the level of my hand the pain was unbearable. The pain did not cease and I called my doctor I was in tears. that was in April my doctor finally did a MRI in July and it shows she torn my rotator cuff so you have therapist that don't listen and are causing injuries to clients so my pain was not just subjective.

      Posted by Thelma Allen on 7/14/2019 10:45 PM

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