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Why diagnostic mistakes are so problematic

In the medical profession, diagnosing a patient’s condition is arguably one of the most common and important parts of providing care. However, from a legal standpoint, it is one of the most problematic areas of the profession. According to a recent study published by the Institute of Medicine, the issues with diagnostic testing can lead to terrible results for patients.

In fact, with the number of diagnoses that are conducted across the United States each year, and the complexity of how medical care is provided, the Institute of Medicine suggests that it is only a matter of time until a provider makes a diagnostic mistake that can seriously affect a patient. 

Even more troubling, the data on diagnostic mistakes is quite sparse; meaning that these issues are not tracked in the same way that other forms of medical malpractice are. For instance, the number of issues due to infections or surgical mistakes are detailed fairly well; but diagnostic mistakes are tracked primarily through estimates. With that said, it is estimated that diagnostic errors affect more than 12 million Americans each year. Without harder pieces of information, it proves to be difficult to improve health care delivery so that these mistakes will not have the same impact on unwitting patients.

Notwithstanding these issues, physicians and medical assistants have a duty to use reasonable care when conducting diagnostic tests. If someone fails to use such care and a patient is sickened, injured or suffers due to an improper analysis, an affected patient could seek legal redress through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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