Understanding how misdiagnosis occurs


It could be said that meeting with a doctor when you feel ill is almost a default procedure. They go over your symptoms, look at your medical history, and establish a treatment plan for you based on these factors and their expertise. The reality is, however, that medical care is not always this streamlined. There are times when a doctor may be incorrect in their diagnosis which can result in further illness or even death. If you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed by a medical practitioner, your case may warrant filing for a medical malpractice claim.

Misdiagnosis occurs when a health care provider incorrectly identifies an illness or medical condition in a patient. It can also occur when a doctor determines that a patient is healthy when there actually is a medical problem present that they have failed to detect.

Misdiagnosis is one of the most common medical malpractice claims in the United States. Indeed, nearly every year about 12 million people are misdiagnosed by a health care provider. Why is misdiagnosis so prevalent in a profession that is tasked with the health and safety of its patients? One reason doctors fail to properly diagnose is that the nature of some illnesses are such that their symptoms may not be visibly apparent or their symptoms may be similar to those of another medical condition. However, there are other disconcerting reasons that account for the frequency of misdiagnosis that have more to with negligence than obscure symptoms.

Insufficient medical history

In any consultation with a doctor, a patient’s medical history must be reviewed in order to provide a safe treatment plan that takes into account any risks factors such as hereditary diseases, allergies, and current medication, to name a few. However, there may be instances where a doctor misses a key point in your medical history when establishing a diagnosis. This kind of oversight can lead to an error in any subsequent treatment you may receive, thereby delaying your recovery and possibly worsening your condition.

Another possible point of error can arise from improperly transferred medical records. Depending on your condition, you may have to see different doctors or even be admitted into a hospital. With each new health care provider you see, your medical history is transferred between them. In the process of passing on your medical documentation, vital data may be lost, leaving your doctors with insufficient information to properly diagnose and treat your illness.  

Poor communication

When visiting a doctor, one of the first things they will ask for is a description of any symptoms and how long these symptoms have been present. Using this information together with a patient’s medical history, a doctor will look into possible illnesses and conditions that align with the symptoms described. However, should there be a misunderstanding of the patient’s symptoms, a doctor could end up assigning a misdiagnosis. Oftentimes, patients can find it difficult to articulate what they are feeling, especially when symptoms are variable or nondescript. In cases like this, a doctor must ask specific questions in order to help patients reveal key information needed to correctly determine a medical cause for their symptoms. Failing to pursue a more detailed account of symptoms can lead to overlooking a vital clue and result in an erroneous diagnosis.

Rushing a diagnosis

Because doctors often have an overwhelming caseload each day, there is a limit to the amount of time they can spend consulting with their patients. For the most part, doctor visits are confined to 15 minutes or less. In rushing through consultations and trying to see as many patients as possible, doctors may also rush through the diagnostic process, increasing their chances of committing an error that can lead to a misdiagnosis. This hurried mode of healthcare delivery is not lost on those seeking help. A growing number of patients feel that their physicians are not fully engaged in assessing their symptoms, but simply wish to move on to the next patient as quickly as possible. This is a dangerous approach to diagnosis and can have dire consequences for a patient’s health.

These are only a few examples of what can cause a physician to misdiagnose a patient. Other cases can include ordering the wrong kind of diagnostic screening, incorrectly reading test results, failing to consider alternative diagnosis, etc. Unfortunately, while misdiagnosis is the leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits, most cases of misdiagnosis will never be accounted for in a court of law. The consequences of this are twofold: 1.) a patient will not receive financial recovery for damages caused by the misdiagnosis 2.) the doctor responsible for the misdiagnosis will probably remain unaware of the harm they caused through their error. If you suspect that your health care provider has misdiagnosed you or someone you love, contact Novo Law Firm PC and speak with one of our qualified medical malpractice attorneys. We’ll guide you through the process of securing compensation for your health and holding your doctor accountable for their medical error.



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