Failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, and misdiagnosis are some of the most common–and serious–medical mistakes. Many community members are confused about what constitutes medical malpractice in these situations. After all, an overt action that harms a patient is obviously a mistake. But what about things that are not done but should have been done which ultimately causes harm. Diagnosis errors are the prime example of that harm by omission.
Patients rely on their medical professionals not just to actually perform certain actions but also to provide advice on what treatments should or should not be pursued. If that advice is egregiously wrong, then patients can suffer serious harm because they may not receive the treatment that they need to get well. For example, if a medical patient goes in to have test performed to rule out a possible medical complications, then it is only reasonable that the patient will trust the results of that test as explained by their doctor. If the doctor says that the tests were negative, then the patient will likely not receive treatment and go on under the assumption that he or she is healthy.
Recently, DOT Med published a story that talked about these errors which are made by radiologists. Radiologists are the medical professionals who read most diagnostic tests, and their determinations are critical when deciding what course of treatment (if any) a patient pursues.
The story explains how the most common medical malpractice claim brought against radiologists is , perhaps unsurprisingly, accusations of misread mammogram results. As most know, mammograms are the tests used to determine if a patient may have breast cancer. If those results are not read properly, then patients with cancer may be made to believe that they are cancer-free. Consequently, they may not receive the treatment that they need in a timely manner, allowing the cancer to spread.
The article pulled data from a study that was published last month in Radiology magazine. It noted how the most common malpractice claim was failing to identify a lesion on mammography scans and not ordering a follow-up with the patient. When the follow up is not ordered, patients with breast cancer may have the invasive cancer spread, limiting their chance at a full recovery when the problem is actually identified.
Interestingly, the story also pointed out that the study seems to suggest that actual diagnosis errors are more common that mistakes connected to communication. Some have argued that one of the key problems for radiologists involve failing to communicate in a timely manner with other caregiving. In other words, doctors may correctly read the test, but if the results are not shared with the appropriate people at the appropriate time, then the patient may suffer serious harm. While those errors do occur, it seems they are less common than outright misreading the test and committing a diagnosis mistake.
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