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New Studies Highlight The Problem of Misdiagnosis – Again

Mar 22, 2019 | Firm News, Medical Malpractice

You probably don’t have to go far to find someone in Indiana who has suffered from a misdiagnosis from a doctor. Such medical missteps always delay treatment. Sometimes when the condition is minor the error doesn’t create much of a problem. Other times, it can be deadly. It always generates a story.

There are many opportunities for medical errors to occur. The ones that make headlines tend to be the most terrible, such as nurses accidentally cutting off oxygen to someone on life support or surgeons excising the wrong limb or leaving materials in patients. These things should not happen, but they do. And when such negligence causes harm, patients and their families can only exercise their rights to seek compensation if they know their options. Consulting an experienced attorney is crucial.

Misdiagnosis is #1 malpractice claim

Readers might be interested to learn that the incidents that generate the most media interest are not the most common source of malpractice claims. Recent studies by two insurance providers highlight that the greatest numbers of malpractice claims stem from alleged misdiagnosis. In one, researchers looked at 1,800 closed claims between 2013 and 2017.

What they found was that 46 percent of the claims were diagnosis-related. Those claims accounted for nearly 70 percent of settlement costs paid and about 45 percent of the cases ended in the patient’s death. The second study looked at fewer closed claims, but still noted that 38 percent involved misdiagnosis as part of the malpractice claim.

Analyzing the numbers, researchers concluded that instances of misdiagnosis were largely due to doctors failing to perform proper assessments of patients. That might mean the doctor didn’t collect an adequate medical history or perform a thorough examination.

An issue that the studies didn’t broach is that of implicit bias among doctors. That is, care providers who unwittingly allow stereotypes about race, gender or economic status to influence their decisions. This is a very real problem that often results in misdiagnoses and it is one that is only just beginning to be addressed.

For now, the most common prescription for avoiding misdiagnosis is to improve communication. And importantly, experts note that this is something that patients and their advocates and doctors alike need to work on.

We would concur. But when errors do occur and malpractice can be proven, patients and their loved ones should not bear the blame.