Despite the need to accurately identify a patient’s condition in order to ensure that they obtain proper care, medical misdiagnosis is an alarmingly common problem. By some estimates, as many as 12 million adults in the U.S. are misdiagnosis each year. An inaccurate or erroneous diagnosis can do considerable harm by delaying the onset of treatment, subjecting patients to medications that may not be required or forcing them to undergo medical procedures that are not warranted. Instances of permanent disability and even premature death are also unfortunately common, especially in situations where a potentially treatable disease or condition remains undiagnosed or undetected until it is too late.
Causes and Contributing Factors
There are any number of factors which may increase the risk of a misdiagnosis. Many conditions produce only minor symptoms, some of which may be difficult to detect or easily confused with other diseases. Malpractice can also be a contributing factor. Physicians and other medical professionals who fail to obtain a complete medical history from their patients, those that do not order the proper tests and diagnostic procedures and even situations where doctors may be rushed and pressed for time can all lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.
Healthcare providers are often under significant stress. The long hours and detailed-nature of the work often finds even the most dedicated and fastidious care providers making mistakes. A single seemingly minor oversight can deprive medical professionals of the information and insight needed to ensure that a correct diagnosis is made. Paperwork errors, poor communication with their staff and associates or even just a minor lapse in attention can all have disastrous results. A misdiagnosis often means that proper treatment is delayed or never administered while patients who are prescribed the wrong treatments may be given medication or subject to medical procedures that may be detrimental.
Complications Associated With a Misdiagnosis
While any delay in treating a disease or condition that has the potential to progress rapidly when not properly managed can be a serious matter, there are other ways that a misdiagnosis may complicate patient care. Medications that produce unwanted side effects and those that may exacerbate an underlying condition that remains undetected can greatly compound the difficulties of making a correct diagnosis. Higher medical costs, longer recovery times and even the risk of long-term consequences to their health and overall quality of life are all common problems that may stem from an inaccurate or erroneous diagnosis.
Taking Steps to Avoid a Misdiagnosis
Patients who take a more active role in their care and treatment may have several opportunities to help minimize the risk of a misdiagnosis. Patients and their families who engage their care provider, ask questions regarding their treatment and who make ever effort to ensure that their medical provider was able to arrive at the correct diagnosis. Patients who lack a suitable advocate and those that choose to remain uninvolved in the decisions being made regarding their care and treatment could be at greater risk than they might realize.
While it is certainly possible that adopting a more active role when obtaining medical care or devising a treatment plan may be beneficial, there are still situations where a misdiagnosis may be unavoidable. Patients who have suffered complications due to being given the wrong diagnosis often require legal assistance in order to deal with the matter. Dealing with an insurance provider who may be less than cooperative or attempting to recover the funds, damages and other forms of assistance or compensation that may be owed can be all but impossible for those who are working alone.
What to Do Following a Misdiagnosis
Being provided with the wrong diagnosis is not always a situation which becomes readily apparent. Patients whose real underlying problem may escape detection and those that are subjected to medical treatments that may be of no benefit or that could actually cause them harm may suffer for years before an inaccurate diagnosis is identified. The families of patients who may have passed away due to delayed or mismanaged care may not even discover the real nature of their illness until after they have passed. Knowing how to best respond to the situation and which steps need to be taken helps to ensure that the families and victims of a misdiagnosis are able to take appropriate action.
If you have cause to suspect that you or someone close to you have been given the wrong diagnosis, then now is the time to contact a medical malpractice attorney. Formal legal representation can play a key role in determining who was at fault, assessing the extent of the damages and ensuring that efforts to obtain a successful ruling from an insurance claim or law suit are more likely to be met with success.