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Correct diagnosis is too often overlooked, studies show

When a patient is suffering from a progressive and/or fatal disease, early intervention is critical. And the first step in intervention is accurate and timely diagnosis. As just one example, many forms of cancer are treatable if caught early.

Unfortunately, misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are common in the United States. In fact, multiple studies show that they are among the most common complaints made in medical malpractice claims.

According to a recent news article, statistical reviews by two malpractice insurers reveal that misdiagnosis is common and can be deadly. In the first study, which looked at four years of malpractice claims, nearly half (46 percent) of claims were related to diagnostic errors. And in 45 percent of those cases, the patients died.

Misdiagnosis is not just a problem among older patients. According to the second study, which examined nearly a decade of data, misdiagnosis accounted for 38 percent of malpractice complaints filed against physicians who treat children.

Why does a diagnosis get missed or delayed? The research noted some common factors:

  • Inadequate patient assessment by primary care doctors (including thorough exam and family medical history)
  • Failure to order diagnostic tests
  • Failure to refer patients to specialists
  • Failure to follow up with patients

Doctors are busy, and it is difficult to catch every detail in the short amount of time that a patient is in the examination room. But analyses like these suggest that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the amount of time and attention doctors give to each patient.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious physical harm due to misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, you may want to contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your rights and legal options.

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Michael T. Ratton
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