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What to know about diagnostic medical errors

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2021 | Personal Injury |

More than 250,000 people in the United States die every year from medical errors and negligence, according to a report from Johns Hopkins University. It happens in Connecticut, and around the country. Medical malpractice means harm caused by medical professionals due to neglect.  While physicians and other medical practitioners do not usually intend to cause harm, their mistakes could cause serious injury or death.  Diagnostic errors occur more frequently than any other type of medical error.

What is a diagnostic error?

Statistics show that anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 patients die annually in the United States due to of diagnostic errors. The World Health Organization defines a diagnostic error as a delay in diagnosing a medical condition or an incorrect diagnosis of a medical condition.

A delayed diagnosis, often called missed diagnosis, is when a doctor does not diagnose a condition within a reasonable time.  Unfortunately, when a physician discovers the condition, it may be too late to treat it.

An incorrect diagnosis, or misdiagnosis, is when a doctor diagnoses a patient with the wrong condition, which results in the patient undergoing the wrong treatments. For example, a patient complaining of shortness of breath could be diagnosed with asthma when it is really Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Why do diagnostic errors occur?

According to research, nearly 68% of medical errors occur in outpatient settings, and one survey determined that 35% of medical errors take place in doctor’s offices. Urgent care clinics and emergency rooms are also places where medical mistakes, including misdiagnoses, can occur.  This may be because treatment is rushed and more chaotic than scheduled appointments.  In addition, in some situations, patients in emergency rooms and urgent care clinics may be unconscious with no one available to advocate for them, to make sure their treatment is monitored closely and to provide important information about their medical history.  Fatigue may be another cause of misdiagnoses in these facilities.

Diagnostic errors can result in unnecessary medical bills and treatment, as well as pain and suffering. However, not all medical mistakes are malpractice. It is important to consult with a team of skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorneys if you believe you or a family member have been the victim of medical malpractice.