A description of medical malpractice claims involving advanced practice providers

J Healthc Risk Manag. 2021 Jan;40(3):8-16. doi: 10.1002/jhrm.21412. Epub 2020 May 3.


Background: The number of physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), together known as advanced practice providers (APPs), has risen dramatically. The goal is identifying characteristics of paid medical malpractice claims, in which APPs are defendants.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study using Harvard's malpractice insurer's national database. Closed claims (2007-2016) with PAs, APRNs, or physicians as defendants. The primary analysis compared claims by role group by patient-, provider-, and claim-level characteristics. Supplemental analyses compared claims naming APPs with and without physicians. Multivariable logistic regression identified variables associated with claim payment.

Results: Of 54,772 claims, PAs were defendants without APRNs or physicians in 26 claims; APRNs were defendants without PAs or physicians in 63; physicians were defendants without PAs or APRNs in 37,354. Approximately 75% of claims naming APPs co-named physicians. More claims naming PAs and APRNs were paid on behalf of the hospital/practice (38% and 32%, respectively) compared with physicians (8%, P < 0.001). Payment was less likely for inpatient care (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.85-0.93, P < 0.001) but higher when APRNs were defendants (1.82, 1.09-3.03), when procedure-related (1.31, 1.25-1.38, P < 0.001) or patients died (1.09, 1.03-1.16, P = 0.003).

Conclusions: These results can inform patient safety initiatives to prevent future harms. The target is outpatient airway procedures performed by APRNs.

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Malpractice*
  • Patient Safety
  • Physicians*
  • Retrospective Studies