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Diagnostic errors are deadliest and most common

Here in New Haven, we trust our doctors to provide us with the best care they are capable of. They are experts in their field, so they should be able to treat us correctly, right? While many doctors provide excellent care, a recent study shows that some doctors get it wrong from the very start.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, more patients file medical malpractice claims over diagnostic errors than any other type of medical error. Unfortunately, a missed, delayed or completely wrong diagnosis can put patients in a life-or-death situation. As one could easily infer, a delay in much-needed treatment or receiving the wrong treatment can be catastrophic for a patient. Why, then are these errors occurring, and what can we do about it?

Unfortunately, why these mistakes happen is not entirely clear, but the study's lead author says there are a few small changes doctors and hospitals can make to help ensure their patients' safety.

First, he said, doctors can take better notes when they are with patients. Right now, many doctors and hospitals only record the final diagnosis, but keeping track of other symptoms reported and conversations had with the patient can help determine when a mistake occurred. Next, hospitals and doctors need to come up with systems for minimizing diagnostic errors, whether that is a checklist or something else. Finally, diagnostic errors need to be better reported.

No one should be afraid to seek medical treatment, but reading about missed diagnoses can make a doctor's visit a little unnerving. As doctors work toward finding a way to minimize errors, you may find it helpful to read our post about how to stop medical errors. If you do, unfortunately, find out that a doctor has misdiagnosed you, know that there are legal options to seek compensation.

Source: Fox News, "Diagnostic errors more common - and more deadly - than other treatment errors," Loren Grush, April 23, 2013

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