Diagnostic Errors – The Largest Contributor to Medical Malpractice Claims

When you think of medical malpractice, you may imagine surgical mistakes. While these do happen, a situation that’s more common is diagnostic errors. In fact, diagnostic errors account for the largest fraction of medical malpractice claims, as observed by researchers at Johns Hopkins over a 25-year period. Diagnostic errors also accounted for the highest number of total payouts and accounted for the most severe patient harm.

It is estimated that 160,000 patients are affected by diagnosis errors in the United States every year. More than half of them involve risk management issues and poor decision making. Fifty-four percent are high severity cases, with 36 percent of those resulting in death. Thirty-six percent occur in outpatient settings.

What exactly is a diagnostic error? It can be a failure to diagnosis, a wrong diagnosis or a delay in diagnosis. Failure to diagnose is the most common, accounting for more than 54 percent of claims.

Claim Statistics

Diagnostic errors can occur at any part of the diagnostic process. Most occur during patient evaluation, accounting for 33 percent of medical malpractice claims. Ordering appropriate tests and interpreting the results of these tests each account for 22 percent of claims.

Most claims involve general medicine providers, with 24 percent of claims. Nineteen percent of claims are directed at hospitals and other medical facilities, and 14 percent involve radiology departments. Emergency rooms and medical subspecialties (such as cardiovascular and neurology) each accounted for 11 percent of medical malpractice claims.

Understanding the Magnitude of the Problem

Diagnostic errors are a huge problem in the medical industry, yet these mistakes do not get the attention that other types of medical malpractice do. For example, to reduce the risk of surgical errors, many hospitals have created checklists for surgeons to abide by during procedures.

Even though diagnostic errors account for far more medical malpractice claims, not enough is being done to reduce them. In fact, in many cases they may not even be reported, so they may occur at even higher rates.

This is frightening, considering that diagnostic errors are more likely to lead to death than other types of medical errors, at a rate of just under 41 percent vs. 23.9 percent. Permanent disability is also a possibility after a diagnostic error.

Sadly, diagnostic errors will likely continue to occur in the future. However, while doctors are human, just like the rest of us, they should be working to improve their error rate in order to protect those in their care.

Reach Out to a Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today for Help

Medical malpractice occurs more often than you think. While diagnostic errors account for the bulk of the claims, the truth is that it can happen in a number of ways and in any medical environment. Sometimes medical malpractice is not serious; in some cases, it causes a lifetime of pain. Some patients even die from medical errors.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed by medical negligence, the Miami medical malpractice lawyers at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum, LLP can help. We assess your case and help you understand your legal rights. To learn more, call our office at (305) 371-2692 or visit us online to schedule a consultation.