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‘Big Three’ diagnostic errors a major cause of malpractice claims

On Behalf of | May 28, 2021 | Blog |

In Virginia and around the country, diagnostic errors can result in serious harm. Unfortunately, they are prevalent and account for almost three-fourths of the medical malpractice cases filed for permanent disability or death. Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are especially prevalent with cancer, cardiovascular events, and infections.

Prevalence of the problem

According to a study that was published in the journal Diagnosis, misdiagnoses of cancer, cardiovascular events, and infections account for 74% of all treatment-related serious injuries or deaths. The researchers found that misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses accounted for 34% of the medical malpractice claims that are filed based on death or permanent disabilities. The researchers reviewed 11,952 cases involving diagnostic errors in the Comparative Benchmarking System between 2006 and 2011. They found that diagnostic errors leading to permanent disability or death accounted for 37.8% of cancer claims, 22.8% of cardiovascular event claims, and 13.5% of infection claims. More than half of the misdiagnosed patients were women. For adults, the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions were cancer and cardiovascular events. In children, the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions were infections.

What can be done to prevent diagnostic errors?

Health systems, doctors, and patients can all do things to try to prevent diagnostic errors and resulting injuries, including the following:

  • Provide more support for doctors to reach out to specialists
  • Encourage clinicians to collaborate closely with each other
  • Take time to communicate with patients and listen to them closely
  • Communicate with lab personnel when any clarification is needed
  • Encourage the engagement of patients
  • Get second opinions

When a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis occurs, the patient can suffer serious harm or potentially die. Patients whose conditions are not promptly diagnosed might suffer worsened symptoms and a poorer prognosis. People who have suffered serious harm and those who have lost loved ones because of diagnostic mistakes may want to talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney for advice on what they might do.