NEW FROM THE OMS GUARDIAN
REDUCING THE INCIDENCE OF FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE CLAIMS
Colin Bell, DDS, MSD - Patient Safety and Risk Management Committee Member
OMSNIC closed claims data over the past 10 year period reveals that less than 5% of claims and
indemnity payments are classified as “failure to diagnose.” Most significant among these claims
includes failure to diagnose oral malignant disease, primarily squamous cell carcinoma, as well
as infections, osteomyelitis, and fractures. Although these claims represent a small percentage of
claims reported to OMSNIC, legitimate failure to diagnose malignant disease matters may result
in dire consequences for patients and sizeable costs to adjudicate such claims.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017 approximately 49,670 new cases of oral
and oropharyngeal cancer were diagnosed, resulting in more than 9,700 deaths. Approximately
80% of these malignancies were classified as squamous cell carcinoma. The incidence of oral
squamous cell carcinoma for lip, gingivae, and floor of the mouth have decreased over the
last few decades, mirroring decreases during the same time frame in alcohol and tobacco use.
However, rates for diagnosis of new cases of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, including
tongue and soft palate have increased especially in younger Caucasian men and women. Many
investigators attribute this increase to more frequent exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV),
particularly HPV 16.
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