Every year in Texas and across the U.S., some 12 million people are affected by diagnostic errors. This is according to a 2014 report from the BMJ Quality & Safety. In the same report, researchers estimated that half of these errors are potentially harmful. In fact, the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine says that between 40,000 and 80,000 people die from complications stemming from medical misdiagnosis.
Interestingly enough, the SIDM was instrumental in getting the National Academy of Medicine to review the various diagnostic errors that are made, leading to a landmark report called Improving Diagnosis in Health Care. The report provides several goals that medical professionals should aim for, among them the improvement of medical education and the more effective use of health information technology.
For example, medical students are taught to only recognize general patterns but may not be told about the cognitive biases that they themselves may operate under. Better training can help eliminate these biases, but that’s not all. Doctors should be familiarized with the less obvious symptoms of those conditions that are easily misdiagnosed, the “big three” being cancers, vascular events and infections.
The report also calls for increased teamwork between medical professionals. Medical centers should establish a reporting system, too, especially a patient-reporting system that relates specifically to diagnostic errors.
Those who are injured on account of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis may be able to file a medical malpractice claim, but they may want to work with a lawyer. Victims need to prove a number of things to have a valid claim, and a lawyer may assist with this step, even bringing in third parties like investigators and medical experts. The lawyer may handle all negotiations for an out-of-court settlement, preparing for litigation if one cannot be achieved.