According to a new report by the Institute of Medicine most people in Pennsylvania and nationwide will experience at least one misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis in their lifetimes. The report called for urgent changes throughout the health care industry to correct the problem. It said the best way to reduce diagnostic errors is to take patient complaints more seriously. To that end, patients should be quickly provided copies of test results and encouraged to ask questions, including whether or not a diagnosis is correct.
The report also concluded that a culture change is needed among doctors. When a second or third physician finds the correct ailment, it should not be considered impolite or embarrassing to let other doctors know the results. An IOM committee member said that doing so could promote better practices.
According to the IOM report, it is hard to quantify the amount of diagnostic errors that occur each year, and it is equally difficult to know which ones lead to serious consequences. However, it provided a conservative estimate that around 5 percent of adults who undergo outpatient care each year are misdiagnosed. Statistics show that diagnostic errors are the leading type of paid medical malpractice claims in the U.S. They are nearly twice as likely to cause the death of patients as other types of medical malpractice.
A patient who has been the victim of a diagnostic error may want to obtain the assistance of an attorney in seeking damages from the responsible party through a medical professional negligence lawsuit. In some cases, it may be appropriate to name the health care facility where the error took place as a defendant in the action along with the practitioner who committed it.