Roughly one-quarter of patient injury reports result in compensation. Experts at the Patient Insurance Center determine, based on legal criteria, when it qualifies as a compensable injury

Health & wellbeing

Every year in Finland, over 9,000 patient injury reports are filed by individuals who suspect they've suffered harm during medical treatment. The number of injury reports has stabilized at this level following the COVID-19 pandemic.

From January to June 2023, 4,618 new injury reports were submitted, roughly similar to the figures for the same period in 2022 (4,594).

It's important to note that these recent statistics do not provide the latest information on patient injuries since individuals have up to three years to file a report. Consequently, injuries resolved in 2023 might have occurred several years earlier.

Processing a single injury claim takes several months. Once a patient submits a report, the Patient Insurance Center collects relevant documents and seeks an expert medical opinion. Interestingly, only slightly more than 7% of the cases resolved in early 2023 were actually filed that year.

"We've actively worked to reduce the time it takes to resolve injury cases, and this is reflected in the number of decisions made in the early part of this year," explained Minna Plit-Turunen, Director of the Patient Insurance Center. "In the early part of 2023, we made 5,380 determinations, which is over a thousand more than the previous year's 4,191."

About a Quarter of Injury Reports Result in Compensation

Compensation for patient injuries is governed by legal guidelines. During the early part of this year, a total of 1,251 patient injuries were compensated. Approximately one in four (24.3%) of the resolved cases were found to meet the statutory criteria for compensation. Among claimants, 28% received favorable decisions for at least one of their reported cases.

In cases where compensation was denied, the most common reasons included the belief that the reported adverse outcome wasn't a result of the provided treatment or that the treatment, although appropriate, couldn't have prevented the outcome.

"It's not necessary for patients or healthcare professionals to determine whether a patient injury is compensable. Experts at the Patient Insurance Center make this determination based on legal criteria. Patient injuries don't cover emotional distress, perceived mistreatment, or cases where patients don't recover despite appropriate treatment," clarified Plit-Turunen.

Over 90% (94%) of the compensated injuries were categorized as treatment-related injuries. These cases involve the criterion that a competent healthcare professional would have acted differently in the situation, thereby preventing the injury.

"It's important to recognize that there are always inherent risks in healthcare. Mistakes and injuries can occur to anyone, even the most skilled and experienced professional. However, we can and should learn from these incidents. Open, non-blaming, and systematic handling of patient injuries within healthcare facilities should be part of every unit's quality and patient safety efforts to prevent avoidable mistakes in the future," emphasized Plit-Turunen.

Significant Impact of Compensation on Society

During the early part of this year, a total of 13.7 million euros were disbursed as compensation for injuries, with the overall cost to the patient insurance system amounting to 21.2 million euros. Naturally, the costs to society and the impact on those who suffered injuries are far greater. The largest single category of compensation during January to June 2023 was loss of earnings, accounting for 45% of the total.

The Patient Insurance Center's interim report for 1/2023 includes patient injury statistics for January to June 2023. The full report for the year 2023 will be published in early 2024.