The Most Serious Medical Error?

Medical errors constitute the third leading cause of death in the United States.  It’s been estimated that a doctor’s misdiagnosis is the most serious of all preventable medical errors.

The impacts of misdiagnoses are felt widely every day.  According to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, 12 million Americans are affected by diagnostic errors each year.  And a third suffers serious harm from a misdiagnosis.

Wrong, Delayed or Missed Diagnosis

That harm comes from three types of misdiagnoses – delayed, wrong or missed diagnosis. The difference between a wrong diagnosis and a missed diagnosis can be subtle.  A wrong diagnosis occurs when a doctor’s original diagnosis is later found to be incorrect.   A missed diagnosis means that a patient’s symptoms are never explained.

A delayed diagnosis happens when the proper diagnosis is eventually made, but should have been made much earlier.  A patient can suffer harm when, because of a delayed diagnosis, the proper medical treatment is not given in time.

Making a medical diagnosis is not always routine.  According to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, there are several obstacles in the diagnostic process, including:

·         Poor communication during the time when a patient is transferred between treatment facilities or treating physicians.  Data or information key to a proper diagnosis may be missed.

·         Lack of time of tools or resources for physicians to correctly diagnose a patient

·         Limited time with a patient may endanger a physician’s ability to gather a complete medical history needed to render the correct diagnosis

·         No system in place for hospitals and physicians to review diagnostic errors and improve the process.  In short, lack of a focus on patient safety.

Primary Care Physician Misdiagnosis

A misdiagnosis doesn’t always occur in the hospital.  In 2017, it was reported that 88 percent of patients who went to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion following a diagnosis from their primary care physician were found to be misdiagnosed.

When it comes to making a diagnosis of a serious disease, many people may be involved.  All must do their work precisely, data must be interpreted correctly, and conclusions must be communicated clearly.

The most common cause for medical malpractice lawsuits is a medical misdiagnosis.  One reason is because an error in diagnosis can inflict the most severe patient harm compared to all other preventable medical errors.

While making a medical diagnosis can be challenging, unraveling how and when a diagnostic error was made can likewise be a complex matter.  If you or a family member suffered significant injuries from a wrong, missed or delayed diagnosis, speak with an attorney experienced in handling cases of a medical misdiagnosis.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog February 8, 2019