Diagnostic errors include failing to diagnose (missed diagnosis), a delayed diagnosis and a wrong diagnosis. Research shows that 40,000 to 80,000 patients in the U.S. die or sustain injuries every year due to diagnostic errors. So, what leads to this alarming statistic?
Here are three causes of diagnostic errors:
Inability to cross-reference with colleagues
A significant percentage of diagnostic errors occur in primary care solo practices – a physician may be unable to cross-reference easily with colleagues. This is typically different in healthcare institutions where patients are served by several practitioners. A test by a doctor can be different from a colleague’s or a medical student’s. When they compare their records, it can be easier to determine the error.
Some physicians in solo practices mainly depend on their results, and in most cases, they have a huge workload, which means they may fail to perform multiple tests to determine an error.
Failure to refer
If a physician realizes a patient needs to be referred to a specialist for tests, they should do so on time. Failing to do this can lead to a missed or delayed diagnosis.
Failure to follow up
When a physician discharges a patient, they should follow up to know their progress. Most cases of diagnostic errors can be prevented by effective follow-up.
It’s not uncommon for symptoms of different conditions to be similar. But healthcare providers are trained in differential diagnosis – listing possible conditions and analyzing a patient’s medical history and physical examinations to get the correct diagnosis.
Differential diagnosis and effective follow-up can prevent diagnostics errors. If a physician fails to do this, a patient may receive substandard care.
If you or your loved one experienced a diagnostic error, seek legal guidance to understand your options.