Doctors Must Take Action To Prevent Misdiagnosis Clinical Negligence Claims
20th August 2013
Clinical negligence claims generally involve either diagnostic errors or treatment errors. However, while treatment errors can be incredibly serious, including surgical errors, medication errors leading to overdoses, and infections, a study has suggested diagnostic errors are the most serious.
The research, which was published in BMJ Quality and Safety, reflects the experiences of the medical negligence solicitors at Clearwater Solicitors. Despite how serious treatment errors can be, misdiagnosis can cause health problems to significantly worsen and can lead to patients receiving the wrong form of treatment or no treatment at all.
Misdiagnosis medical negligence claims
Scientists at the John Hopkins University reviewed medical malpractice claims in the US over 25 years, between 1986 and 2010, to find that diagnosis errors accounted for the most serious personal injuries, the largest proportion of compensation claims, and the highest total of payouts, costing a total of $38.8 billion (£25.25 billion) over the years.
The study, which was led by John Hopkins University School of Medicine Associate Professor of Neurology David E. Newman-Toker, M.D., Ph.D, found that the number of patients suffering death or significant personal injuries due to potentially-preventable misdiagnosis errors annually ranges from between 80,000 and 160,000.
Out of 350,706 successful clinical negligence claims investigated, 28.6% related to diagnostic errors, which accounted for 35.2% of the overall sum of money paid out. Furthermore, diagnostic errors were almost twice as likely to lead to disability or death as other types of medical errors and clinical negligence.
Dr Newman-Toker explained that the discrepancy and underreporting of misdiagnosis medical negligence could be somewhat caused by to difficulty in measuring these incidents. Whereas surgical errors are easy to notice and immediately evident, the length of time between the date of a misdiagnosis error and the date the error is noticed can be much larger.
Specialists could be unwilling to face this problem as it could “open up a can of worms”, he explained. While treatment errors can be resolved and while other issues that lead to patient harm can be confronted, there will probably never be a “magic bullet” to prevent misdiagnosis clinical negligence claims, he added.
Preventing misdiagnosis medical negligence compensation claims
Dr Newman-Toker suggested that misdiagnosis errors have not been given enough attention and research – something our medical negligence solicitors would agree with. Not only can misdiagnosis errors lead to serious health problems, and can allow a fatal disease to progress until it is incurable, but their frequency reveals these should be a key area for healthcare facilities to focus on if they are to improve patient outcomes.
There will be no foolproof solution to preventing these medical negligence claims – the errors that lead to test results being misunderstood are different to the errors that lead to patients with serious, rare illnesses being told they have a more benign and commonplace illness with similar symptoms.
However, any strategies that could reduce this problem will be highly appreciated. Dr Newman-Toker said check-lists could have some value, as could additional investments in research.
With misdiagnosis errors so much more frequent and serious than other mistakes, prompt action into preventing these mistakes could make a drastic difference to patient outcomes.