In recent years, hospital systems have been starting urgent care systems to reduce demand in their emergency rooms, among other reasons. But as the number of urgent care centers (“UCC”) grows, so does their liability exposure. In our experience, and research confirms, medical malpractice claims involving urgent care – i.e., failure to diagnose stroke, heart attack and GI perforation – have increased dramatically in the last five years. To understand what these trends mean for your physician or organization, let’s look a little deeper:
The fact patterns in UCC cases are uniquely similar: patient presents on Day 1 with symptomatology that mimics other less severe diagnoses. The next day, the patient appears at the emergency room in full-blown crisis. Plaintiffs can always find experts who say the diagnosis should have been made sooner.
Health care providers at these UCCs are not immune from suit. Although the care is provided in an urgent care facility (as opposed to a hospital), the M.D.s, P.A.s and nursing staff are still held to the same standard of care – what a reasonable practitioner would do under the same or similar circumstances. They do not escape liability, nor are they held to a “softer” standard by virtue of practicing in an urgent care setting. In fact, these providers are often criticized simply because they are the first point of contact and may influence downstream events.
We have defended these UCC cases vigorously and will continue to do so. If you have any questions about exposure in an urgent care setting or are thinking of staffing one, we will take time to listen to your concerns, and discuss the risks and benefits involved in those decisions. Please contact us.