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Rate of Medical Misdiagnosis Emphasizes Need for Patient Involvement

Patients Need to “Stay Engaged” to Prevent Injuries from Medical Errors 

How often do medical misdiagnoses occur, and what can we do to prevent serious injuries caused by medical mistakes? According to a recent news report in tucson.com, diagnostic errors are much more common than most patients like to believe.

What is a diagnostic error? According to the article, a diagnostic error can be “generally defined as delayed, missed, and inaccurate diagnoses.” A delayed diagnosis typically refers to a situation in which it takes a physician too long—longer than it should—to properly diagnose an illness, and as a

result a patient’s condition worsens. A missed diagnosis refers to a situation in which a medical professional fails to diagnose or identify an illness or potentially life-threatening condition. Lastly, an inaccurate diagnosis typically involves a scenario in which a patient is diagnosed with something other than what he or she is actually suffering from.

According to Dr. Mark L. Graber, the president of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, there are anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 deaths in the United States every year due to diagnostic errors. Diagnostic errors are serious problems, and a 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine described diagnostic errors as “a blind spot in medicine.” What can patients do to help reduce the risk of a delayed, missed, or inaccurate diagnosis?

As the article explains, the science of diagnosis often requires cooperation from the patient. It is important for patients to be honest with their healthcare providers and to detail symptoms as accurately as possible. One patient safety advocate with Mothers Against Medical Error suggests that it is “absolutely incumbent upon patients to do their own research” when they suspect that their healthcare provider is not moving toward a proper diagnosis.

Given that there are more than 10,000 different diagnosable conditions—with hundreds of new possible diagnoses becoming available every year—doctors may not reach the same conclusion when examining a patient and exploring his or her symptoms. In the event that you were given an inaccurate diagnosis and suffered as a result, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation for your injuries. Therefore, it is important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine your rights.

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