A study published last month demonstrated that misdiagnosis is the #1 cause of medical malpractice claims. The studies also opened new windows upon the issue of medical malpractice by showing that particular types of medical facilities are most likely to make the same errors.
Misdiagnosis: Delayed and Inaccurate Diagnosis
The study was published in Diagnosis on July 11. Researchers discovered that delayed or inaccurate diagnosis was the stated cause of death or serious disability claims in 34 percent of claims. In nearly two-thirds of those cases, the diagnostic error led to death or permanent disability. According to the Insurance Industry’s Claims journal (7/24/2019), claims in cases caused by diagnostic error account for 28 percent of all medical malpractice insurance payouts.
This study was designed to identify medical malpractice cases in which diagnostic errors were cited. The study was underwritten by the Society to Improve diagnosis in Medicine. The research team reviewed carefully some 55,377 resolved medical malpractice claims filed between 2006 and 2015. Of these claims 11,592 cited medical malpractice due to diagnostic error. Nearly three-fourths of these claims were related to three types of conditions: cancer, vascular events (heart attacks, strokes, etc.) or infections.
Diagnostic Errors Consistent in Facilities
One of the most significant findings of this study was the observation that particular types of medical facilities were most likely to make the same diagnostic errors.
- In outpatient clinics cancer diagnosis was erroneous most often.
- In hospitals and emergency rooms, vascular problems (stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, for example) were most often misdiagnosed.
Further study of medical malpractice claims, particularly those that occur most frequently in a particular medical facility, could lead to greater understanding of the factors contributing to these misdiagnoses. It could also identify the factors specific to each type of medical setting and to each type of illness that could be addressed more effectively with new protocols, procedures, and diagnostic record-keeping.
Further research will require time, money, and appropriate resources to define and implement the kind of changes that can improve diagnostic accuracy. Until then, you can do a few things to protect yourself from diagnostic errors:
- Insist that the doctor hear your symptoms.
- Insist that the doctor gather your personal medical history and your family medical history.
- Ask questions, and more questions.
- Get a second opinion from your primary care physician or another specialist.
You might look at the diagnostic process as a partnership between you and the doctor. Particularly in stressful, fast-paced environments like emergency rooms, it is easy to miss information or to have focus diverted by another case.
If a loved one has died or suffered serious disability or injury due to diagnostic error or any other type of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to financial compensation. When you need a Virginia medical malpractice attorney who will fight for you, call Altizer Law, P.C. We have been helping people harmed by the negligence or wrongdoing of others for more than 30 years. Bettina Altizer and her team understand that after a tragedy it’s about the money.