Between 40,000 and 80,000 hospital patients die each year in around the country because their medical issues were misdiagnosed or not diagnosed in a timely manner. Diagnostic mistakes are the most common type of serious medical error in New Jersey and affect about 12 million Americans each year. In about one in three misdiagnosis cases, the patient either dies or suffers permanent or serious damage. This kind of error costs the health care industry about $180 million each year in medical malpractice payouts alone.
Study reveals misdiagnosis pattern
To better understand why misdiagnosis is so common, the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine asked researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to study 50,000 medical malpractice claims. The researchers discovered that almost three-quarters of these mistakes were made when diagnosing either cancer, vascular conditions or infections. Lung cancer, sepsis and stroke were the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions in each category.
Misdiagnosis is a system-wide problem
The researchers point out in the study, which was published in the medical journal Diagnosis, that solving the problem will require a system-wide effort. They say that emergency room doctors should be better trained to notice the signs of a stroke, hospital physicians should pay closer attention to possible infections and primary care facilities should do a better job of screening for cancer.
Establishing causation in malpractice cases
Patients who are harmed due to a misdiagnosis may file medical malpractice lawsuits against the doctors or hospitals responsible, but proving causation is sometimes challenging in these cases. This is because misdiagnosed patients are already sick, and medical malpractice defendants could argue that their conditions would have worsened even if a correct diagnosis had been made. When these arguments are raised, experienced personal injury attorneys could call on specialists or other medical experts to refute them.