Study: A physician’s diagnosis may not always be accurate

Medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose patients are serious forms of medical malpractice, and may lead to patient injury and death.

When ailing New York residents visit their physicians, they expect to receive an answer as to what is wrong with them, and a possible plan of how to get it fixed. Doctors are not always able to diagnose the problem and some physicians may send the patient to see a specialist. In a surprising number of cases, however, patients leave the doctor's office with a misdiagnosis and some are not given a diagnosis at all. Medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose patients are serious issues in the U.S., and they may lead to patient injury, disability and even death.

The study

A study published in BMJ Quality and Safety found that more than 12 million Americans who are seen in outpatient clinics and emergency rooms across the nation are affected by medical misdiagnosis each year. At least half of those patients face potential harm from being misdiagnosed. These numbers are underrepresented, as not all incidents of medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are reported. Not only does this study alert people to the alarming regularity of wrongful diagnosis, but it allows the medical industry to take a look at possible ways to solve this serious problem.

Factors leading to misdiagnosis

Health care professionals that work in an after-hours clinic or emergency room setting do not generally know the medical history of their patients. This can make it hard for doctors to catch a key underlying symptom or a hereditary condition that may be responsible for the distress.

According to an NBC news report, the following factors may also contribute to medical misdiagnosis:

  • Doctors spend a limited amount of time with each patient and may be unable to gain a clear understanding of the patient's situation in that small time period.
  • Doctors may order the wrong diagnostic test that fails to show the patient's true condition.
  • Doctors may misread the screening tests.
  • Outpatient clinics and emergency rooms are often busy and chaotic, making it easier for a misdiagnosis to occur.
  • Frequent doctor and staffing changes may increase the likelihood of miscommunication and error.

Some clinics and ER units have implemented programs to help decrease the number of misdiagnosed cases. When doctors and nurses work long hours and are forced to deal with stressful situations on a regular basis, they are more prone to mistakes.

When to involve a legal representative

When a patient's condition goes undetected, it can worsen in severity. It may even become life-threatening. For example, a small cancerous lump that goes undetected for a period of time may spread to other parts of the body.

If a doctor has failed to properly diagnose your condition or if you are the victim of any other type of medical malpractice, you may want to consider speaking to a personal injury attorney in New York. The attorneys at Paris & Chaikin are experienced trial lawyers who represent innocent victims of medical malpractice and will work to ensure that you do not have to live with pain or disability because of a doctor's negligent actions.

Keywords: medical, malpractice, injury, doctor, negligence, hospital