Medical diagnostic errors harm patients every day, leading to devastating health consequences. Unfortunately, most Americans will likely experience at least one such error in their lifetime. Misleading diagnostics have harmful consequences. Treatment opportunities may be delayed or missed entirely, patients may be subjected to unnecessary treatments, and trauma may be inflicted upon patients and their families. The number of misdiagnoses leading to preventable injury or death is thought to be as high as 160,000 every year.

Is the Health Care System to Blame?

A recent report issued by an Institute of Medicine (IOM) independent panel examined mistaken and missed diagnoses. The findings reveal that the health care system itself may be exacerbating the issue because of inherent problems, especially communication issues. IOM committee chairman Dr. John Ball stated that to reduce diagnostic errors, the diagnostic process needs improvement.

The report noted that the diagnostic process is fundamentally inexact because reaching a diagnosis is often a collective effort involving a team of healthcare professionals. IOM emphasizes that steps must be taken to better coordinate care between patients, health care professionals, health care organizations and the legal system.

Advice for Patients

As the complexity of the health care system continues to increase, there are some steps patients can take to limit their risk of experiencing dangerous misdiagnoses.

  • Patients should never hesitate to speak up you need to be your best advocate. If a patient feels their questions have gone unanswered and concerns are unaddressed, they should continue to bring them up to their health care providers.  If possible, have a friend or relative present with you to act as an additional advocate for you.
  • Before undergoing a test or procedure, patients should ask health care professionals to clarify its purpose. Also, patients should ask their health care providers when to expect test results and how they will be given, such as by phone call or letter.  And you can call your and ask to see the results.

Although it is important that patients are engaged and informed in their healthcare decisions, it may not always be enough. The high number of diagnostic errors shows that there is a systemic health care problem that needs addressing. If your health and safety has been compromised by diagnostic errors, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Goldberg Finnegan today to schedule a free case evaluation.