Articles Posted in Delayed Diagnosis

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A recent study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals that 54% of American physicians report feeling burnt out at work. Lead study author, Stanford pediatric physician Daniel S. Tawfik, and his team found that those experiencing burnout were TWO times as likely to have made a major medical error in the last 3 months. Study authors also believe that based on this information, 1/3 of all American physicians are experiencing burnout at any given time.  Researchers describe burnout as “emotional exhaustion or cynicism.”

The study questioned 6,586 physicians in active practice at an American hospital or clinic and asked them to report feelings of burnout, excessive fatigue, recent suicidal thoughts, their thoughts on patient safety on the unit in which they primarily work, as well as those who had made a major medical error. The authors found:

  • 54.3%  of physicians admitted feeling burnt out
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The Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer rights advocacy group out of New York Law School, has compiled a review of medical malpractice incidents and has publicly shared their findings. Entitled “Medical Malpractice: By the Numbers,” the briefing examines recent medical studies and investigations of both inpatient and outpatient groups and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice organizations.

The data brings deficiencies in medical care into the spotlight, specifically the care Americans receive within hospitals. Below is a summary of information from the report our medical malpractice attorneys think is particularly informative and worth sharing. All data sources can be found in the CJ&D briefing. We have included the page number of the report that contains the source for each statistic.

HOSPITALS:

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A February 10th article in Medical Economics tackles the issue of legal responsibility for physicians treating one of the estimated two million patients with a BRCA mutation or Lynch Syndrome. 1 in 400 Americans are carriers of the BRCA gene mutation, said to be associated with a 50-70% higher risk of developing breast cancer and a 15-64% higher risk of ovarian cancer. Lynch Syndrome, a condition linked to a 70% higher risk of colorectal cancer, is found in 1 in every 350 Americans. The condition is also associated with elevated risk of endometrial, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary cancers. The problem with these conditions is that experts believe nearly half of those who carry the BRCA gene or Lynch Syndrome will find out they have cancer without knowing previously that they are carriers, leaving medical economists to speculate that a potential legal crisis will occur when patients realize that a simple screening recommended by their physician could have ultimately prevented their cancer or saved their lives. Giving clarity to the magnitude of the potential situation, Medical Economics says that the average medical practice has 2400 patients, 6 of whom will be carriers of the BRCA mutation and 7 of whom will be found to have Lynch Syndrome.

Giving Detailed Family History Could Save Your Life

Under the Affordable Care Act, most insureds who meet a specific set of criteria are eligible for cancer and genetic screening and according to Medical Economics, millions of them have not been referred by their doctor for testing. The journal recommends physicians obtain a complete family history as it relates to cancer, using whatever method of collection will gather the most thorough information without adding to an already robust workload. In the case of obtaining a proper cancer history for each patient, experts agree that the time spent to gather the information is a worthy cause. Even allowing a patient to self-report information through an electronic questionnaire that can be imported into their electronic medical record (EMR) is beneficial.

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Beyond aiding in the recovery for those affected by medical errors, malpractice lawsuits also play the critical role of ensuring hospital safety stays on the public radar. Without focused attention on the need to identify problems and improve, there is the risk of facilities getting caught in a rut–doing the same thing over and over, regardless of the errors that result.

The focus on malpractice does not exist only in newspapers. Medical researchers and academics are also drawn to the topic to study exactly what types of errors are most common and how they can be prevented.

For example, earlier this month international researchers published the results of a detailed study of a medical malpractice claims to understand what forms are most frequent. The findings were shared in full in the online version of the British Medical Journal (BMJ Open). The abstract and full text of the report can be found here.

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Proper preventative testing is an important part of detecting health problems early enough to provide life-saving treatment. It is for that reason that there has been a recent push to encourage everyone to receive yearly tests for particularly common ailments. One of the most prominent examples of this trend is the encouragement for women to receive yearly mammograms.

However, some women recently found out that their testing was completely useless, because the results were never examined by a doctor at all.

ABC News reported on a bizarre case of medical mistakes involving a willfully negligent hospital employee. Rachel Rapraegar was a radiology technician at the Perry Hospital in Perry Georgia. While in the position she gave mammograms to hundreds of women who came in to ensure that they did not have breast cancer. However, instead of taking the test and giving the results to the doctors to examine, Rapraegar never showed the actual doctor anything. Instead, she simply marked the results as negative and sent the patients on their way.

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A new study in Business Week reports than over half of pediatricians admit to making false diagnosis, missing diagnosis, or delaying diagnosis once or twice in the past month alone. Pediatric trainees are even more susceptible to error, with over 77 percent of them making diagnostic mistakes in the last thirty days.

Even more startling is that over half of those doctors admitted that their missed diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis resulted in direct harm to the patient. Because of that it should not be surprising that virtually one out of every three medical malpractice lawsuits stems from a doctor’s inaccurate or failed diagnosis.

These diagnostic errors have various causes, but the report indicated that the most common include a doctor’s failure to properly gather a patient’s medical or exam history, errors on medical charts, and failure to follow up on abnormal test results.

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A medical malpractice attorney has filed a motion for a new trial after blaming a local paper for jury tampering. According to the plaintiff’s medical negligence attorney, agents associated with the newspaper handed out copies of the publication near the courthouse while the trial was taking place. The paper allegedly was covering the trial as it happened and that lead the plaintiff’s attorney to accuse the paper of jury tampering. The client sued her physicians for their delayed diagnosis of breast cancer. To read more about the medical malpractice attorneys‘ allegations, follow the link.

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Chicago medical malpractice lawyer Steven Levin recently settled a case for $1 million on behalf of a Chicago boy who suffered brain damage and hearing loss when a doctor failed to diagnose his meningitis. The boy, now 10 years old, was only 8 months old when the injury occurred. His parents took him to the pediatrician twice and on both visits the doctor failed to recognize that he had pneumococcal meningitis. It was not until he had multiple seizures and was taken to the emergency room that doctors diagnosed his condition. As a result of this delayed diagnosis, he suffered brain damage and hearing loss. Since the boy was so young at the time of his injury, his attorneys had to wait for his medical conditions to develop so that they could truly understand the effects of this mistake. A Cook County judge ordered the medical malpractice settlement on April 15, 2009.