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Data shows patients have a high risk of encountering misdiagnosis

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

When you are having a serious medical problem, you rightfully expect that your physician or emergency room staff will run all necessary tests and take all necessary steps to ensure a correct diagnosis is made. However, recent data has revealed that misdiagnoses are a very common threat to patients. Errors in diagnosis can have serious repercussions such as life-long injuries and patient deaths from wrongfully diagnosed diseases and conditions.

According to a recent analysis published in the medical journal BMJ Quality and Safety, the number of fatal diagnostic errors in the nation’s intensive care units equals the number of patients who die each year from breast cancer-about 40,500.

Additionally, in a 2009 report commissioned by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that about 28 percent of the 583 diagnostic errors that were reported anonymously by doctors were fatal or were likely to result in death or permanent disability.

Overall, patient safety experts estimate that incorrect, missed or delayed diagnoses occur in about 10 to 20 percent of patient cases. This figure exceeds the likelihood of patients being injured by medication errors and egregious surgical errors (e.g. surgery on the wrong body part), although curiously, these types of errors receive much more attention.

Preventing misdiagnoses

Since misdiagnoses are a common and often fatal danger faced by patients, it is important to take steps to minimize the risk. When visiting a doctor it is first of all important to clearly communicate your symptoms and mention any family disease history. If you are working with a doctor with whom you have never worked before, it is also important that he or she has your test results and medical and medication records from your previous physicians.

Once the physician has made a diagnosis, it is important to not be hesitant to follow up with questions. Among the most important questions that you should ask are the how the physician arrived at your diagnosis, what are other explanations for your symptoms and why other diseases or conditions were ruled out. If you think that your doctor has missed something, it can be a good decision to seek a second opinion.

If you or a loved one has suffered because of a misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to recover compensation under Ohio law. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your claim and ensure that the responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.

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