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What is a diagnostic error?

A diagnostic error occurs when a diagnosis is missed, wrong, or delayed. As a patient in Ohio, knowing that your diagnosis has been wrong or delayed can be a very important factor in your personal injury case. If a diagnosis is wrong, you could be treated with the wrong medications. If it's delayed, then you may not receive the care you need as quickly as you should have. If the diagnosis is missed completely, it could be life-threatening or deadly.

How often do diagnostic errors take place?

These errors take place around 5 to 15 percent of the time. Many times, the information about these errors is collected during an autopsy; other times, patients may self-report diagnostic errors, malpractice claims data could be published, or physicians may self-report the errors.

Is malpractice claims data skewed, and if so, does it affect what is known about the amount of diagnostic errors that occur?

In some ways, it could be skewed, but it's important to look at the claims made across the board as they're reported. The claims show both diagnostic reports from patients as well as from the medical community that has to respond to the claims. Together, these claims and confirmations solidify the data.

It's true that many times, diagnostic errors are unknown and cause no real damage. For instance, claiming a patient has a cold instead of seasonal allergies won't likely cause any real harm. However, diagnosing a patient that has cancer with a pulled tendon or inflammation could be detrimental to his treatment or lead to a lack of treatment and the progression of the disease.

Source: Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, "FACTS: Improving Diagnostic Accuracy in Medicine," accessed June 01, 2016

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