Reducing Diagnostic Errors Key to Improving Patient Safety

Reducing Diagnostic Errors Key to Improving Patient Safety

Over the last several years, much has been made of the finding that preventable medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Studies estimate that roughly 700 people a day or 255,000 a year, die due to medical errors.

A new study evaluated just what type of mistakes were the biggest contributing factors. The report published by a medical service provider found that diagnostic errors – both the failure to diagnose and a delay in making the proper diagnosis were the leading causes of medical malpractice claims, accounting for roughly 1/3 of all cases. Other types of errors include surgical errors and more general treatment related failures. Diagnostic problems are a great concern – when diagnostic errors occur, the chances of properly treating a patient and resolving his or her medical issues in a timely manner with the best outcome diminish.

While about half of the diagnostic error malpractice claims were the result of errors in lab testing (including wrong tests being performed, or results not properly interpreted/conveyed) another large percentage were related to the failure of physicians to properly evaluate a patient and obtain his or her relevant family history. Further, many of the claims were against radiologists, who detail the findings for doctors’ review. When a radiologist’s report is lengthy or complex, physicians may not take sufficient time to make a thorough diagnosis the studies author’s theorized.

Tips to help reduce the number of errors include encouraging doctors to discuss cases and diagnoses with others, especially when difficult cases arise. Unfortunately, the culture and climate of many practices do not support this type of open dialogue. The lack of open communication ultimately harms the patient, leading to potentially deadly medical errors.

For more information or if you believe that you or a loved one has been harmed due to a preventable medical error, please contact the experienced Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.
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