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How technology may help prevent medical errors

Although it has been 20 years since a shocking government report about the frequency of medical errors revealed how common they were, they continue to happen. That report attributed around 98,000 annual deaths to medical errors. Studies since then have found the number to be even higher. Patients in Texas and throughout the country may also be permanently disabled as a result of medical errors.

Diagnostic errors are one common type of mistake. Most of these are misdiagnoses involving infection, vascular events or cancer, and associated malpractice suits have cost around $1.8 billion. New technology does not seem to have helped. In fact, doctors spend more time staring at screens because of electronic medical patient records, and this has led to more burnout. Furthermore, as technology improves, demand increases as well. For example, as the work load for radiologists increases, they may have only seconds on average to review images.

However, technology could also be the solution. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can use algorithms to detect abnormalities at a rate that is equal to or higher than that of humans. One study found that having a radiologist and a computer examine lung cancer screenings led to more accurate results than having a second radiologist check. The Food and Drug Administration will need to approve the use of new technologies.

A misdiagnosis that compromises a person's treatment and leads to illness or death could be considered medical malpractice. People who believe that they have been a victim of medical malpractice or that a loved one has been may want to consult an attorney. In determining whether medical malpractice has occurred, the legal system considers whether the error was the result of medical negligence. This involves taking into account what a normal standard of care would be and whether there was a deviation from that.

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