A new report from the Institute of Medicine calls for urgent reforms to help address the problem of diagnostic errors. The report says that most people will experience at least one wrong or delayed diagnosis in their lifetime, but that incorrect diagnoses receive little attention.

The chairman of the committee that looked at the issue says that to fix the problem, there must be better teamwork between health providers, including doctors, nurses, and lab workers. In addition, patients’ complaints must be taken more seriously, and patients should quickly receive copies of their test results.

Another reform that should be enforced, according to the committee, concerns times when a patient has been through several doctors, and only later gets the correct diagnosis, the information about the correct diagnosis should be shared with the patient’s other doctors, so that they can learn from their mistakes. Now, it is considered a source of embarrassment for a doctor to learn that he or she misdiagnosed a patient.

Typically, errors in making a diagnosis do not make headlines. An exception occurred last year when a man who was suffering from Ebola was misdiagnosed as having sinusitis in a Texas hospital. He later returned to the hospital and died.

In many cases, however, the errors are simple but can cause serious consequences. There are no accurate statistics of how many diagnostic errors occur each year in the U.S., but a conservative estimate is that five percent of adults who seek outpatient care each year experience a diagnostic error. Diagnostic errors are almost twice as likely as other errors to have resulted in a patient’s death, and they comprise the main type of medical malpractice claims.

There are a variety of reasons behind diagnostic errors. In today’s health care environment, many doctors’ visits are rushed. Patients may have difficulty communicating with their health care providers. X-rays or lab tests may be misread or misplaced. Many health records are electronic and are not allowed to be easily shared. A doctor’s thinking may be influenced by recent experiences, leading them to fail to see other potential diagnoses.

The committee recommends that doctors don’t necessarily begin performing a battery of tests on patients. Instead, they should carefully consider what tests to order, and they can use technology that will provide possible alternative diagnoses. In some cases, malpractice insurers will offer discounts on insurance premiums to policyholders who use these types of technology.

A missed or incorrect diagnosis can lead to serious complications, and in some cases even death. Although medical providers cannot be responsible for diagnosing every medical condition, in some cases they can be held responsible for a missed or incorrect diagnosis. If your doctor failed to diagnose your medical condition, you may be able to hold him or her responsible for medical malpractice. You may be eligible to receive damages that resulted because of the error, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. If your loved one passed away because of an incorrect diagnosis, you may be eligible to receive compensation for wrongful death.

Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco medical malpractice attorney at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000 if you believe that your doctor or other health care provider committed medical malpractice. Ms. Liberty works with clients throughout the Bay area, including Oakland, Hayward, Tracy, Fairfield, San Jose, Sacramento, Berkeley, and the surrounding areas. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that health care professionals should be held legally liable when they commit malpractice. She can provide you with a free consultation on your case. Call today to schedule a free consultation or to learn more.

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