Errors in diagnosis are the top cause for medical malpractice lawsuits in the United States. Despite these staggering statistics, diagnostic errors have not been the subject of attention in Chicago the way that other malpractice issues, such as hospital-acquired infections, obstetrical negligence and medication errors have.
Dr. Gordon Schiff, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School shed some light on the subject of diagnostic errors at a recent medical conference in Illinois. As one of the country’s leading experts in the field of medical misdiagnosis, he points to a recently released report by the Institute of Medicine, which says that 5 percent of U.S. adults who seek outpatient care each year are affected by diagnostic error. With the risk of diagnosis error so high, there is cause for alarm.
The Reason for Diagnostic Errors
There are many potential causes for an incorrect medical diagnosis, but poor communication is often a factor in these cases. Many remember the Liberian man who sent home from a Texas hospital in 2014, after a missed Ebola diagnosis. Communication between medical professionals and patients is certainly to blame in some cases, like the one in Texas, but lack of communication between medical facilities and providers and failure to coordinate care can also lead to diagnosis errors.
In busy emergency rooms, it’s common for medical professionals to move quickly from patient to patient. Though common practice, this can lead to overlooked symptoms and failure to report the results of diagnostic testing.
The Danger of Diagnostic Errors
Diagnostic errors can lead to delayed treatment, lack of treatment all together, and even harmful treatment. In fact, The Institute of Medicine places responsibility for an estimated 10% of patient deaths on misdiagnosis.
Some of the symptoms of minor medical disorders mimic the indicators of serious and life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease. Patients who have received an incorrect diagnosis are often subject not only to physical harm, and even death, but to psychological and financial harm as well.
For Chicago patients who have been harmed by a diagnosis error and their families, the impact of medical malpractice can be devastating and lasting. There are many legal hurdles to overcome in a medical malpractice case in Illinois. Malpractice attorneys can help patients who are dealing with high medical bills and lost wages to access the care and the funds that they need to move forward.