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Misdiagnosis behind most malpractice claims

Colorado residents should know that two recent studies have linked the majority of malpractice claims with misdiagnosis. In a 2017 study involving 62,966 malpractice claims filed by hospital patients, University of Michigan researchers found that 22 percent involved misdiagnosis. Two years earlier, the National Academy of Medicine stated that diagnostic errors may be the third leading cause of death among hospitalized patients.

Two studies were conducted by two insurance carriers specializing in medical professional liability policies. Coverys found that 46 percent of the 1,800 closed claims that were made against its physicians from 2013 to 2017 involved misdiagnosis. Sixty-eight percent of paid indemnity costs were related with misdiagnosis. Out of those misdiagnosis-related cases, 45 percent of the patients died.

The second report was released by The Doctors Company and focused on 1,215 claims closed from 2008 to 2017. Thirty-eight percent of claims against physicians that involved a child patient arose because of misdiagnosis. The study shows that inadequate medical assessments are to blame for many cases of misdiagnosis.

Primary care providers, who conduct these assessments, are also responsible for selecting treatments and monitoring any high-risk medications their patients take. Thus, it is critical that they capture a complete family history and perform thorough physical exams. After inadequate assessments, the ordering of the wrong diagnostic test was the most common allegation in diagnosis-related claims.

If patients feel they have a case under medical malpractice law, they may want to request a case evaluation from an attorney. Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are often the result of doctor negligence. To file a claim, though, it must be shown clearly that the doctor failed to live up to generally accepted medical practices. There must also be a preexisting doctor-patient relationship. If these criteria are met, the attorney may take on the case.

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