When there’s something wrong with a person’s body, they need help from medical experts. Doctors can provide prescription medications and other forms of treatment, but more importantly, they help determine the actual cause of those painful, possibly debilitating symptoms.
Doctors have an array of resources available to them to reach an affirmative diagnosis, which means that they verify the presence of a specific malady. There are culture tests that can identify bacteria and imaging tests that can pinpoint the location of a fracture or confirm the suspicion that someone has a bowel obstruction.
Patients depend on their doctors to accurately diagnose them. Unfortunately, a shocking number of patients every year do not receive appropriate diagnostic support when presenting for medical care.
How often do doctors make medical mistakes?
Researchers estimate that roughly 5% of patients experience some kind of diagnostic error or delay when seeking medical support. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can both have severe consequences for a patient.
If a doctor reaches the wrong conclusion, a patient may undergo the wrong type of treatment, complete with whatever side effects that treatment causes. If the doctor doesn’t diagnose someone at all, they won’t receive the care that they need to improve their symptoms. In some cases, diagnostic failure goes unaddressed for months until a patient sees another professional. Sometimes, diagnostic errors only come to light after the patient dies.
Diagnostic errors can be actionable malpractice
There are rare scenarios in which even a well-trained and attentive physician would have a hard time diagnosing someone because they present atypical symptoms or don’t describe their experience properly. Much of the time, however, diagnostic errors are the result of the doctor rushing through the appointment or ignoring warning signs reported by the patient.
When a medical professional deviates from best practices, the patients affected by substandard care may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim. A successful malpractice claim could result in financial compensation to cover medical costs incurred by the diagnostic failure and other losses, like lost wages.
Recognizing that doctors frequently make diagnostic errors may motivate some people to get a second opinion or consult about the possibility of a malpractice claim.