Although a serious problem in the health care industry, diagnostic errors do not receive a lot of attention. According to the Institute of Medicine, more attention is needed because delayed diagnoses and misdiagnoses could mean that the patients receive wrong or unnecessary treatments, which cause them financial, physical and psychological harm. Due to this, some patients in New York might want to be aware of their risk of being misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late.

In September, the IOM released a report that showed diagnostic errors impact about 12 million adults every year, which is about 5 percent of adults who seek outpatient care. It also showed that such errors are a factor in about 10 percent of patient fatalities and explain 6 to 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals.

The organization is bringing these figures to the attention of the health care industry because diagnostic errors are financially and clinically more expensive than ever, say the authors, so this issue requires more attention and dedicated resources. They say that the cost of misdiagnosing a condition that is treatable is much higher because treatment options are more expensive and effective.

The authors also say that technological advances allow the industry to better track diagnostic errors and potentially discover methods to prevent them. The first step is pinpointing the main causes of the errors. The IOM points to a lack of feedback and transparency regarding diagnostic performance, a poorly designed health care system, and insufficient communication between patients and health care professionals as the main factors.

A delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis resulting from the negligent actions of a health care professional or facility may be legitimate grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Substantiating these types of claims, however, is often complex, so many patients could turn to malpractice attorneys for help. In successful cases, the patients may be awarded compensation for the damages that have been sustained.


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