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Study shows high rate of missed or delayed diagnoses

Although most doctors and hospitals in New Mexico provide patients with excellent medical care, some errors are unavoidable but many are preventable. For this reason, researchers conduct studies that may help to shed light on systemic problems that may cause increased doctor errors.

Missed or delayed diagnoses can cause serious injury or death, and a recent study found that it affects 160,000 people in the United States. Because the effects of missed or delayed diagnoses are often gradual, several additional cases likely go unreported. In fact, diagnostic errors account for a greater share of medical malpractice lawsuits than other types of errors, including operating room errors or medication errors. 

In the last 25 years, the study found, the frequency of diagnostic errors may have increased. However, the reasons for the possible increase are unclear. Doctors’ fear of malpractice lawsuits may make them hesitant to diagnose illnesses that involve risky treatment. However, victims of diagnostic errors are less likely than victims of other types of medical errors are less likely to connect their deaths or injuries to a doctor’s failure to immediately diagnose a condition. It is unknown whether hospitals have made any plans to reduce the incidence of diagnostic errors, but this study may prompt some changes.  

Patients who are unsure of a doctor’s diagnosis, or lack of a diagnosis, may want to see another doctor for a second opinion about their health. It is also important that any wrongdoing on the part of medical professionals is reported. Victims of medical malpractice may be entitled to receive compensation. An attorney can help in these circumstances. 

Source: Huffington Post, “Diagnostic Errors More Common In Medical Malpractice Claims Than Surgical, Medication Errors: Study,” April 24, 2013

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