You visit your health care provider and walk out with a diagnosis that doesn’t feel quite right – maybe it doesn’t address your most prevalent symptom, or the care protocol doesn’t deliver the relief as expected. What recourse is there and how do you know if you’ve been misdiagnosed?
Most medical malpractice cases arise from a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, however, patients need to understand that a diagnostic mistake by itself does not necessarily constitute medical malpractice. Knowing how medical professionals define misdiagnosis, or ‘diagnostic error,’ is the first step.
The National Academy of Medicine defines diagnostic error as “the failure to establish an accurate and timely explanation of the patient’s health problem(s) or communicate that explanation to the patient.” The communication piece is a big change from prior definitions – it’s not helpful if a proper diagnosis is written down if the patient never receives it.
One-third of malpractice cases for death or permanent injury began with a missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis, marking it the biggest cause of serious harms among medical errors. Certain illnesses are harder to diagnose and result in diagnostic error more frequently. Cancer, infections and vascular events like heart attacks and strokes, account for almost three-fourths of all serious harms from diagnostic errors, according to a study published in Diagnosis.
In some cases, a medical misdiagnosis might also be the result of a physician’s failure to:
- Send the patient to an appropriate specialist
- Screen for a particular disease or condition
- Read the lab test results properly
- Consult properly with the patient about his or her symptoms
- Follow through and determine possible causes of the patient’s symptoms
While misdiagnosis is a complex thing to navigate, Bell Law Firm has the experience and knowledge to help. We encourage you to reach out today if you suspect that you or a loved one have been misdiagnosed.