According to the findings of a new study, the consequences of diagnostic errors during doctor’s office visits may be a more serious public health problem than previously believed. In a report published by JAMA Internal Medicine on February 25, researchers from the Houston Veteran Affairs Medical Center wrote that the majority of cases of misdiagnosis during primary care treatment have the potential to cause patients serious harm. In fact, an editorial by Dr. David E. Newman-Toker, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, that accompanies the study suggests that diagnostic errors may be responsible for more patient injuries and deaths than any other medical mistake. If you believe you or a loved one has been adversely affected by a doctor’s misdiagnosis of a medical condition, consult our knowledgeable attorneys at AMA Law today.
COMMON TYPES AND CAUSES OF DIAGNOSTIC ERRORS
Researchers involved in the study examined medical reports involving diagnostic errors from two different medical facilities, looking for cases where patients made an unexpected return visit after an initial primary care visit from October 1, 2006, to September 30, 2007. According to their findings, the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions were some of the most severe, such as congestive heart failure, cancer, acute kidney failure, pneumonia and urinary tract infections. The study authors determined that the most common cause of misdiagnosis was an error during the patient-doctor clinical encounter, which accounted for 79% of all cases of diagnostic errors. These mistakes occurred during the process of recording the patient’s medical history, when ordering diagnostic tests or when conducting the examination.
DANGERS OF MEDICAL MISDIAGNOSES
“Primary care practitioners (PCPs) manage a wide variety of increasingly complex and severe conditions through one or more relatively brief encounters,” the researchers concluded. “Thus, it is not surprising that the primary care setting is vulnerable to medical errors. Diagnostic errors (missed, delayed, or wrong diagnoses) are of increasing concern in this setting.” Despite this danger, Dr. Newman-Toker noted in his editorial that the medical community has failed to give the issue of medical misdiagnosis the attention it deserves. “Diagnostic errors are increasingly recognized as an important source of preventable harm in many health care settings,” he wrote. “Missed, wrong, and delayed diagnoses have been underappreciated by internal peer review, autopsy reports, and examination of malpractice claims.”
OUR EXPERIENCED ATTORNEYS CAN HELP
As Dr. Newman-Toker reports, the majority of information on diagnostic errors in the medical field has come from medical malpractice claims, which means the actual rate of diagnostic errors in the United States is likely much higher than reported. If you have experienced a serious medical complication that you believe to have been caused by a diagnostic error on the part of your doctor, or if you lost a loved one to a fatal medical mistake, don’t hesitate to protect your legal rights. Contact our reputable lawyers at AMA Law as soon as possible to discuss the possibility of filing a medical malpractice claim against the allegedly negligent physician or doctor’s office. Too often, patients suffer unnecessary harm at the hands of doctors or hospitals who fail to practice a reasonable standard of care, which can have devastating consequences for patients and their families. With the help of our experienced attorneys, you can seek fair and timely reimbursement for your losses.