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New Study About Medical Diagnosis Errors

A major research university recently released the contents of their study on mistakes during the diagnostic process. The study showed some of the most common errors that doctors in the United States make while diagnosing patients, errors that led to debilitating injuries and even death. Overall, nearly 160,000 patients are affected by incorrect diagnosis annually.

Johns Hopkins University revealed the shocking truth that these errors are not only common, but they result in serious financial losses. The research team from Johns Hopkins evaluated over 350,000 medical malpractice claims over the past 25 years. The results? Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of clients was responsible for approximately 29% of all medical malpractice claims.

This percentage is even higher than medical malpractice claims involving surgical errors and medication errors. When taking into account medical malpractice claim payments, 35.2% resulted from diagnosis error claims. This means that diagnosis errors cost $38.8 billion from the years 1986 to 2010. In over 40% of these cases over a 25-year period, the victims died because of the diagnosis error.

This study also revealed the top five most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions: pneumonia, worsening congestive heart failure, acute renal failure, cancer and urinary tract/kidney infection. The study also targeted the top five reasons for these diagnosis errors: breakdown in communication during patient's initial visit to doctor, doctor's failure to refer a patient to a specialist, inadequate medical history provided by patients, doctor's failure to follow up with patient and diagnostic tests that are not accurately interpreted.

By law, hospitals are required to give reports on the outcome of major medical events. For example, a hospital would have to give an account of the outcome of a cardiac bypass surgery for the review of quality measures. However, there is no law that requires diagnosis errors to be reported or even measured by federal or private quality programs.

So what data did the Johns Hopkins team evaluate? The research team admitted that data from medical malpractice claims can be flawed. For example, there are many instances of medical misdiagnosis that never result in claims just as some claims paid are not associated with actual diagnostic errors. Overall though, the trend in medical malpractice claim data has proven that claims paid are a good indicator of how often these events actually occur.

The Johns Hopkins team found that there were almost an equal number of fatal and nonfatal mistakes and that, in light of previous hospital death estimates, the actual number of total diagnostic errors could be much higher, up to 80,000 annually.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are filed somewhat frequently in the United States. Some of these cases are settled before they reach the trial phase, while others end in extensive civil trials. In order for the plaintiff to receive payment, they must prove that the doctor acted negligently, and that negligence resulted in injury. Medical malpractice attorneys then have the job of proving four basic elements: 1) An established patient/doctor relationship in which the doctor owed the patient a duty of care; 2) The doctor somehow breached that duty; 3) Because of the breach of care, the patient was injured; and 4) Actual and provable injuries or damages resulted.

If a plaintiff is awarded compensation, this compensation could come in the form of economic damages as well as noneconomic damages. This means that they could be compensated for their actual, physical suffering (medical expenses, etc.) as well as their emotional trauma (loss of enjoyment of life, etc.). If you or someone you love has been injured by the negligence of a medical professional, you may have a malpractice claim. To learn more, contact a Bronx personal injury lawyer from The Law Firm of Steven I. Fried today!

Categories: Medical Malpractice


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