A doctor’s failure to diagnose a patient's medical condition is the most common reason why patients sue their doctors. This statistic also includes a doctor misdiagnosing a patient and/or delaying their diagnosis.

What is Failure to Diagnose?

Failure to diagnose is caused by a doctor’s negligence or failure to take the specific steps necessary to determine the nature of your illness. This negligence then causes you harm, as treatment is either delayed or isn’t administered at all, due to there being no record of it.

Read more: Failure to Diagnose and Defensive Medicine

In 2013, Johns Hopkins researchers found that diagnostic errors - such as failure to diagnose - accounted for the largest fraction of medical malpractice claim payouts. Diagnostic errors also resulted in the most severe patient harm and the highest total penalty payouts.

In fact, Doctor David E. Newman-Toker at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine argues that diagnostic errors could easily be the biggest patient safety and medical malpractice problem in the United States.

Read more: Failure to Diagnose

According to a recent study, in almost 16% of the cases, radiologists will report false-positive cancer readings in mammogram x-rays. Many of these radiologists are younger and newly trained doctors who may be likely to make more errors in interpretation than their more experienced counterparts.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that only if the radiologists could compare films from their earlier mammogram screenings, the rate of these “false-positives” could be lowered significantly.

Dr. Joann Elmore, professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington (School of Medicine), says that it is alarming how common false-positives have become in the US. She also said that false-positives are most likely to occur in the case of breast cancer mammogram screenings but it shouldn’t discourage women from having annual check-ups.

Read more: Blunder # 1: Misreading a Mammogram

Lewy body dementia refers to a particular kind of dementia that has three possible initial presentations. New Yorkers who have LBD are sometimes misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer's because the two conditions have some of the same symptoms. This can be harmful to people with LBD because they may respond positively to some dementia medications that are less likely to be prescribed if they are erroneously diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and because people with LBD may respond negatively to some Alzheimer's drugs, sometimes with lasting side effects.

Read more: Patients with LBD at risk of misdiagnosis

Typically, cellulitis is diagnosed based on how the affected area looks and what the patient reports as symptoms. There are a number of other skin conditions that might have symptoms similar to those of cellulitis, so it is sometimes misdiagnosed. Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that causes skin inflammation. New York residents might be interested in the results of a study from Brigham and Women's Hospital that demonstrates early dermatologist consultation for patients who were thought to have cellulitis improved outcomes and prevented misdiagnoses.

Read more: Dermatology consults could prevent cellulitis misdiagnoses


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