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Diagnostic errors threaten patients in Montana

Physicians in Montana may make a diagnostic error in one of several ways, such as the following:

  •        Failing to diagnose an illness
  •        Diagnosing the illness as something else
  •        Delaying the diagnosis of an illness

No matter which form the error takes, the mistake can be devastating. Unfortunately, it is an all too common experience for many people. A study from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that diagnostic missteps accounted for more medical malpractice claims than any other error when reviewing 25 years of payouts. Perhaps even more significantly, researchers report that a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose situation causes the most severe harm to a patient.

The causes of these errors vary. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that in 78.9 percent of diagnostic errors in primary care visits occurred due to the encounter between the patient and the practitioner. Problems associated with that interaction involved error with the actual exam, taking the patient’s medical history and requesting that additional diagnostic tests be taken. Further, most of these mistakes were linked to having moderate to severe effects.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that many diagnostic errors could be prevented if there were better feedback systems in place to let a physician know that he or she made a mistake. Additionally, doctors should be aware that their own biases can play a role in incorrectly diagnosing a patient. For example, a physician may be inclined to determine that a patient has a certain illness if that doctor has seen a number of similar cases recently. Researchers with Johns Hopkins note that further research should be done in order to reduce the number of diagnostic wrongdoing. 

 

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