Misdiagnoses That Happen in Hospitals

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Misdiagnosis is a common medical error.  There are several types of medical misdiagnoses:

·         A wrong diagnosis

·         A delayed diagnosis

·         A missed diagnosis

Serious Consequences of Medical Diagnostic Mistakes

Unfortunately, medical misdiagnoses occur all too frequently, with potentially devastating consequences.  According to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce misdiagnoses and the resulting patient harm, diagnostic errors in this country:

·         Are responsible for 40,000-80,000 patient deaths per year

·         Are at the center of one-third of all medical malpractice lawsuits in which the patient died or was permanently disabled

It is in this context that a Pennsylvania medical center set out to formalize an effort to record diagnostic mistakes so that doctors could learn why they occurred. Representatives outlined this process and the results last fall at the annual meeting of the SIDM.

The first step was to create a database of all diagnostic errors made.  The goal was to not only identify any incidences of medical misdiagnoses, but also identify the issues that caused them.  Some of those factors were:

·         Incorrect reading and interpretations of medical test results

·         Lack of follow-up with abnormal medical test results

·         Problems in the referral process after receiving medical test results

Hospital Departments in Which Most Misdiagnoses Happen

This process began in September 2017, with a committee reviewing each case. Those entered into the database and reviewed by June of last year revealed the most common healthcare departments that had misdiagnosed cases, including:

·         The emergency room

·         Radiology

·         Primary care

·         Hospital medicine

·         Surgery

The emergency room had the most number of medical misdiagnosis cases. The review committee found that, in the ER, the most common factors in those misdiagnoses involved:

·         Clinical encounters with the patient

·         Test interpretations

·         Follow-up

·         Referrals for further medical treatment

Factors That Cause Mistakes with Cancer Diagnosis

This process also uncovered the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions. Cancer was most frequently misdiagnosed, with the following reasons why:

·         Not following up with abnormal test results – 30% of misdiagnosed cancer cases

·         Clinical missed opportunities – 24% of misdiagnosed cancer cases

·         Pathology missed opportunities – 18% of misdiagnosed cancer cases

·         Radiology missed opportunities – 16% of missed diagnosed cancer cases

After these reviews the committee sent the cases back to the respective departments to communicate findings as to why misdiagnoses occurred, and garner feedback and productive dialogues with the medical care providers involved over ways to prevent them in the future.

Those who created this system told SIDM they believe this standardized process for recording and reviewing cases of misdiagnosis is key to improving patient safety going forward.

But many hospitals not only do not learn from their mistakes, they often try to hide them.  When seriously injured patients or their families don’t get sufficient answers, often times that is when they turn to the legal system.

If you or a loved one suffered a serious mistake during medical care – such as a misdiagnosed condition – speak with a personal injury attorney who is experienced in conducting in-depth investigations and litigating medical malpractice cases.

 The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog April 28, 2021


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