In September, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a landmark report that characterized incorrect medical diagnosis as a huge blind spot in our health care system. No one truly knows how many people have their medical care compromised by wrong or delayed diagnoses, but it’s clear that countless people are harmed every year. The report estimates that each of us will have at least one incorrect or delayed diagnosis in our lives, and that even one misdiagnosis could have serious repercussions. Dr. John Ball, the chairman of the Committee on Diagnostic Error in Medicine, which wrote the report, noted, “This problem is significant and serious [yet] we don’t know for sure how often it occurs, how serious it is, or how much it costs.”
Finding the correct diagnosis is critical, because it is the first step in determining appropriate treatment. Without a doubt, it appears that our medical system sorely needs improvement in this area. Some of the key points in the report mentioned above show that:
- Each year, about one in 20 adults in outpatient care experience a delayed or incorrect diagnosis.
- Hospital research conducted postmortem implies that diagnostic errors contribute to one in every 10 deaths.
- Medical records suggest that diagnostic errors in hospitals are responsible for up to 17 percent of “adverse events.”
The suggestion that incorrect diagnosis contributes to the deaths of one in ten persons is disturbing. Equally disturbing is the fact that the committee thinks diagnostic errors will only grow worse as our health care system becomes more complex.
The Costs of Misdiagnosis
Sometimes, a missed diagnosis causes no harm. But the mistakes that do cause harm are often at the root of malpractice lawsuits. From 2010 through 2013, MMIC Group, a medical liability insurance company in Minnesota, reviewed 2,000 claims and found that 313 were caused by diagnostic errors. In fact, diagnostic error was the third most common reason for claims and the second most expensive, costing over $47.2 million in total. MMIC’s chief medical officer, Dr. Laurie Drill-Mellum, stated, “That’s a big number, and it demands attention.”
What’s to be Done?
The committee has some ideas on how we can restructure the U.S. health care system to improve these statistics:
- Radiologists and pathologists need to be more involved with the patient when it comes to the diagnostic process.
- More autopsies are needed, so that we can amass more data.
- More openness and sharing at all medical institutions are called for.
- Better use of existing technology needs to be implemented.
- Medical malpractice laws should be changed so that health care professionals will admit mistakes more readily.
It’s clear that every party in our health care system needs greater involvement if we are to improve the diagnostic process.
Let Down by the Health Care Industry? Let “The Injury Lawyer” Help You
An experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to listen to the facts of your case, conduct a thorough investigation, and help you devise a legal strategy for obtaining compensation for your injuries. Due to the involvement of insurance companies and defendants who can afford a strong legal team, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with an attorney who has extensive experience when it comes to medical malpractice. Not every medical malpractice claim will hold up in court. However, the only way to determine this is through a thorough case review.
The law offices of Maryland attorney Steven H. Heisler stand ready to help you. Interested in more information on whether you have a valid medical malpractice claim? Contact Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer Steven H. Heisler today for a free case consultation at (410) 625-4878, or use our online contact form.