Medical Misdiagnosis Cases Likely To Increase If Changes Are Not Made

Carl Saiontz

By Carl Saiontz
Posted October 2, 2015


A recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) warns that major changes need to be made in the U.S. healthcare industry in order to avoid a growing number of medical misdiagnosis cases, which are already a leading cause of malpractice lawsuits in the United States, resulting many preventable injuries and deaths each year.

The group released a report on medical diagnostic problems on September 22, finding that there is little collaboration between doctors, patients and families. In addition, many healthcare institutions lack the ability to detect medical misdiagnoses when they occur.

Misdiagnostic cases can take a variety of forms, ranging from emergency room misdiagnosis, which may result in patients being treated for the wrong problem, to failure to diagnose cancer or other serious conditions, which often delays crucial treatments that could affect both quality of life and the chances of survival.

According to a statement by John R. Ball, chair of the committee and executive vice president emeritus, American College of Physicians, in an IOM press release:

“Diagnosis is a collective effort that often involves a team of health care professionals – from primary care physicians, to nurses, to pathologists and radiologists.

The stereotype of a single physician contemplating a patient case and discerning a diagnosis is not always accurate, and a diagnostic error is not always due to human error. Therefore, to make the changes necessary to reduce diagnostic errors in our health care system, we have to look more broadly at improving the entire process of how a diagnosis (is) made.”

The committee that generated the report warns that there is likely to be an increase in misdiagnosis cases in the medical community, as the way healthcare is delivered and the diagnostic process grows more complex. Therefore, the committee recommends that the entire process needs to be re-envisioned.

Health care professionals and organizations are being called on to work more closely with patients and their families, helping them learn about the diagnostic process. The report also calls for more access to electronic health records, which should include clinical notes and test results. The committee also calls on health care professionals to foster an environment where patients and their families feel comfortable speaking up about their concerns over potential diagnostic errors.

In a separate study published last year in the medical journal BMJ Quality & Safety, researchers from Veterans Affairs in Texas attempted to quantify the rate of medical misdiagnosis problems, determining that about one out of every 20 people who have an outpatient visit had a medical misdiagnosis.

While there is often talk of tort reform surrounding medical malpractice lawsuits, taking steps to reduce the incidents of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose will go a longer way to limiting liability claims.

A 2013 study in the BMJ Quality & Safety journal found that medical misdiagnosis lawsuits account for more malpractice payments than any other type of complaint, representing more than a third of all money paid through medical malpractice settlements and verdicts.

The medical misdiagnosis lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. investigate potential cases for individuals and families throughout the United States, and hear every day about the devastating impact that can result when proper steps are not taken to diagnose a medical problem.

If you believe that a serious injury or death may have resulted from a diagnostic problem, find out if you or a loved one may have a medical malpractice case. Contact Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. by calling 1-800-522-0102 or request a free case evaluation.

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