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The harmful and wasteful consequences of misdiagnosis

Nov 23, 2015 | Failure to Diagnose

Doctors in New York City and across the nation are devoted to providing consistent and correct aid to the patients they serve. Unfortunately, even skilled and ethical physicians can commit errors in diagnosis at times. Not only do such mistakes have the potential to cause serious patient harm; they also lead to massive wasted health care expenses as patients receive proper treatments for ailments that they don’t actually have.

As an example, one doctor led a study pertaining to misdiagnosis of cellulitis that revealed an approximate 20-percent misdiagnosis rate of the disease. One 57-year-old woman he met stated that three different hospitals admitted and treated her on separate occasions with the same erroneous cellulitis diagnosis. According to this physician, with over half a million inpatient cellulitis admissions annually at an average cost of $12,000, over $1 billion may be wasted each year for one misdiagnosed ailment.

With concerns regarding both human welfare and economic sustainability, experts at the Institute of Medicine released a report on failures to diagnose. It recommends improvements in communication between all departments handling each patient’s care. The report also calls for continuous education improvements, feedback systems for capturing information about errors, and integration of new technology to gather input from patients with better accuracy.

When physicians misread test results or make other serious errors, the repercussions can affect entire families. Time wasted can allow diseases such as cancer to advance untreated while the patient may suffer severe side effects from the incorrect treatment. Individuals or loved ones affected by errors may wish to consult with legal professionals. With the planned improvements to diagnostic practices, attorneys might soon cite the improved information to strengthen a settlement claim by contrasting such knowledge with a physician or hospital’s actions.