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Diagnostic errors are the leading medical malpractice problem

Missed, delayed and wrong diagnoses are among the most prevalent types of medical malpractice. In fact, the majority of malpractice claims payouts and most of the money paid out for these claims are for diagnostic errors. People are nearly twice as likely to die due to a diagnostic error than any other type of medical error.

A timely and proper diagnosis is essential to a patient receiving proper medical treatment. Therefore, the problem of diagnosis is an essential one to tackle.

A report by the Institute of Medicine called the problem of diagnosis mistakes a "blind-spot" in our health care system. The report says that these errors occur every day in this country. However, it's really unknown just how many people's lives and health are impacted by these errors. According to the study, "most people will experience at least one faulty diagnosis in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences."

Diagnostic errors occur for a multitude of reasons, including:

-- Poor judgment on the part of physicians

-- Assumptions by physicians based on previous experience with other patients

-- Physicians ordering the wrong tests and/or misinterpreting test results

-- Poor coordination of care, such as in an emergency room

-- Lack of follow-up with patients

Even health care technology, which has improved significantly in recent decades, can be the cause of diagnostic errors if it's not easy to access or understand. The report called this technology, including electronic medical records, a "barrier to good health care."

As patients, we rely on physicians and other medical professionals to provide accurate diagnoses and proper treatment. However, we also have to be advocates for ourselves and our loved ones.

If we believe that a physician is not taking our concerns seriously, many people have the option of getting another opinion and asking for further testing. However, that's not affordable for everyone. Everyone doesn't have the same access to medical care. If you believe that you or a loved one have been harmed by a diagnostic error, you should seek legal guidance to determine what your legal options are.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "'Countless' Patients Harmed By Wrong or Delayed Diagnoses," Steve Sternberg, Sep. 22, 2015

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