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Several studies find that misdiagnosis can have severe effects

Everyday in Houston, Texas, medical patients are receiving care from their primary physicians and other medical specialists. What they may not know is that they could be receiving a misdiagnosis from those doctors. According to several medical studies, it happens more than we think.

One study found that diagnoses that are missed, incorrect or delayed affect ten to 20 percent of all cases. These numbers far exceed incorrect drug dosages and surgery performed on the wrong patient or body part, which both receive more attention than misdiagnoses.

Another study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a federal agency, highlighted just how serious misdiagnoses can be. It found that 28 percent of 583 misdiagnoses reported anonymously by physicians were life-threatening, caused death or resulted in a patient being permanently disabled.

These studies are not just talking about rare or exotic diseases. These diagnostic errors, which appear to be more common in primary-care settings, are reported to result from flawed methods of thinking, sometimes even coupled with negligence.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no easy solution for the problem. Misdiagnosis errors can be much harder to prevent than drug errors and wrong-site surgery. A lot of misdiagnoses are complex and multifaceted, and therefore it may take years for them to be discovered, if they are discovered at all.

In many cases, doctors never even find out about a wrong diagnosis. Some patients simply move on and find a new doctor, who might then give them the correct diagnosis. Unless such mistake result in a lawsuit, the original physicians may never know they got it wrong. As a result, even though misdiagnoses are one of the leading causes of malpractice lawsuits, most cases never result in legal action.

These types of cases highlight the fact that the consequences of a doctor's actions can be very severe. It is therefore important to note that patients who suffer from a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose may be entitled to compensation if the error caused them injury or disease progression above and beyond that which would have resulted from a timely or correct diagnosis. The compensation they deserve can help them get back on track in their recovery process.

Source: Kaiser Health News, "Doctors' Diagnostic Errors Are Often Not Mentioned But Can Take A Serious Toll," Sandra G. Boodman, May 6, 2013

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