Study examines diagnostic errors in malpractice cases

The type of medical error people in Connecticut might be most likely to experience is misdiagnosis. Overall, misdiagnoses may cause as many as 40,000 to 80,000 hospital deaths annually and between 80,000 and 160,000 incidents of serious harm. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, most misdiagnoses happen with cancer, vascular events and infections.

More than 33% of mistakes that resulted in permanent disability or death were cancer-related while 22% involved vascular problems. Another 13.5% had to do with infections. Researchers then took the three major conditions and broke them down further, finding that the top three specific conditions that involved errors were lung cancer, stroke and sepsis. Breast and prostate cancer, pneumonia and heart attacks were among the other top 15 conditions identified.

Mistakes related to cancer usually occurred in outpatient settings while errors dealing with infection and vascular problems usually happened in emergency rooms. Failures in clinical judgment were the most common cause of mistakes. Researchers said better teamwork and education could help improve outcomes along with using technology more in diagnoses and ensuring that people were seen by specialists sooner. The researchers said that further study was needed. One of the limitations was that the study was based on malpractice claims, but not all misdiagnoses and errors lead to these claims.

People who have been harmed by a medical error may want to talk to an attorney about whether the mistake constitutes medical malpractice. Malpractice may include surgical errors and medication errors as well as errors related to diagnosis. A medical facility or medical professional may agree to settle out of court. A successful case in court will need to show that the person was harmed and that the error happened because the person did not receive a reasonable standard of medical care.