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The reality of medical diagnostic errors

Going to the doctor is not always a big deal. Many people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere visit their primary physician each year for a yearly checkup. While preventative medicine focuses on certain healthcare areas, a patient should always be able to rely on their medical professional to diagnose and treat them whether it is during a yearly check-up or for ailments they are currently suffering. Failing to make a proper assessment can not only lead to a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis, but it can also mean delayed treatment and a worsened condition.

Unfortunately, inaccurate or delayed diagnoses are not uncommon. In fact, most patients in the United States will experience at least one diagnostic error in his or her lifetime. While most of these will have little or no effect on the patient, others can have devastating consequences, such as new medical problems and even death.

Some recent studies have claimed that their collected data shows that diagnostic errors are sparse; however, they also reveal that there are few measures available that can accurately track them. Moreover, most errors are only discovered in retrospect, making it difficult to put a number or a rate on these events.

When considering the cause of diagnostic errors, three common ones stood out. First, inadequate collaboration and communication among physicians, patients and their family members tops the list of common causes. This is followed by the limited feedback provided to doctors regarding the accuracy of the doctor's diagnosis.

Lastly, because we live in a culture that discourages transparency and the disclosure of diagnostic errors, this impedes the ability to learn and improve this area in the medical community.

The pain and suffering resulting from a misdiagnosis could be tremendous. This could cause an injured patient to endure a variety of damages. In these matters, a patient does have recourse available to them. A medical malpractice claim could help an injured patient recover compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages and other related expenses.

Source: CBSnews.com, "Diagnostic errors put millions of patients at risk, report says," Ashley Welch, Sept. 22, 2015

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