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Two recent studies released by two separate malpractice insurance carriers stress the impact of misdiagnosis by primary care physicians as a major issue in malpractice cases.

According to an article released by the Claims Journal, the studies were done by Coverys and The Doctors Company, two of the largest medical malpractice insurers in the country, independently show the frequency of which misdiagnosis leads to detrimental health outcomes for patients.

Misdiagnosis Study by Coverys

The study by Boston-based Coverys of 1,800 closed claims against physicians between 2013 and 2017 showed that 46% of the claims studied were related to the patient’s diagnosis.

Other significant findings included that in 45% of cases involving diagnosis the patient died. The top allegation in the study was that doctors failed to capture the complete family history and complete a thorough physical exam before issuing the diagnosis.

Additional healthcare-related actions involved in misdiagnosis cases in the Coverys study included:

  • The ordering of diagnostic tests
  • Referrals to other providers
  • Patient followup

Misdiagnosis Study by The Doctors Company

Malpractice insurer The Doctors Company’s study encompassed a longer period of time—2008 to 2017—but a smaller number of closed claims (1,215). The study also involved specific age groups. According to the article, the study found that 38% of malpractice claims against physicians involving the treatment of children involved a misdiagnosis.

Their study found that “missed, failed, or wrong diagnoses are largely the result of inadequate medical assessments.”

Additionally, the study found that “a failure to appreciate and reconcile signs, symptoms, and test results was the most common patient assessment issue identified.”

Conclusions Reached in Both Studies

Although the studies involved small sample sizes and different groups of people, both serve as a window into our health care system, and the things that medical professionals and healthcare systems can do to improve outcomes–which deeply affect the lives of patients. An obvious finding is that the quality of care as a significant variable in the outcomes of patient treatment and recovery.

“Our research sheds light on the need to provide detailed explanations to parents or guardians regarding symptoms that should prompt immediate care when the child is sent home,” stated Darrell Ranum, study author and vice president of patient safety with The Doctors Company.

“Failure to correctly assess patient conditions during these complex phases of care can result in significant patient harm,” stated Robin Webster, a senior risk consultant for Coverys and co-author of that carrier’s report.

Other Recent Studies on Misdiagnosis in Medical Malpractice

The Claims Journal article also discussed a few other studies done in the past decade regarding misdiagnosis in medical malpractice suits and their similar outcomes to the two recently released studies.

For instance, the National Academy of Medicine issued the findings of a study in 2015 that found that “diagnostic error may be the third-leading cause of death among hospitalized patients and are responsible for the majority of paid medical malpractice claims.”

A separate, larger study with findings released in 2017 by the University of Michigan found that 22% of the 62,966 malpractice claims filed by hospitalized patients they reviewed involved misdiagnosis, and the outcome was often disability or death of the patient.

Both of these older studies and findings from the recently released studies from two separate malpractice insurance carriers underscore the necessity of proper care and attention in the diagnostic phase of patient evaluation. Failure to do so can involve misdiagnosis, patient disability, or death.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney

The pressures of an overburdened healthcare system may be overwhelming. But that should never be used as an excuse as to why a patient’s health and well being were compromised. Patients–human lives –should come first. This means the doctor or hospital is required to form a differential diagnosis. And if the doctor cannot rule out the problem, or identify the problem, then the problem must be treated and observed until a cause is identified and treated. The rationalization that “if something is really wrong, the patient can always come back” is bad medicine and exposes patients to an unnecessary risk of harm.

Examples of common misdiagnosis cases we see include:

  1. Failure to diagnose an infection;
  2. Failure to diagnose cancer;
  3. Failure to diagnose a surgical complication; and
  4. Failure to diagnose a stroke.

If you have suffered from disability as a result of misdiagnosis, or your loved one died as a result of a physician’s failure to diagnose their condition properly, seek help from a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. Contact The Simon Law Firm today to discuss your case.

Contact The Simon Law Firm, P.C.

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