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How often do hospitals miss diagnoses?

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

People may end up at a hospital seeking medical care because they have an emergency or an issue their doctor cannot manage without specialist support. They may need inpatient testing recommended by their doctor to diagnose a medical condition, Modern hospitals have an impressive array of testing options available. There are laboratories that can look for pathogens or cancer in tissue samples. There are imaging devices that can look at soft tissue and bones. Physicians working at hospitals have a wealth of diagnostic tools at their disposal.

Yet, despite the ability to order an MRI or laboratory testing, overworked physicians might jump to the simplest conclusion instead of ruling out other possible medical issues first. A failure to diagnose a patient can lead to a poor medical outcome or even death. How often do diagnostic failures occur in modern hospitals?

Millions of patients go undiagnosed annually

There are two main types of diagnostic mistakes. The first is a misdiagnosis where a doctor determines that someone has the flu when they actually have early morning signs of cancer. The second is where a doctor fails to diagnose a patient at all.

Particularly in situations where the only evidence of someone’s concerns are their own statements, doctors may dismiss their concerns and turn them away without testing and treatment. The failure to diagnose a patient might mean that their condition progresses. They may have fewer treatment options or a worse long-term prognosis because a doctor did not successfully diagnose them.

Such incidents occur millions of times annually. Researchers estimate more than seven million diagnostic errors occur annually just in emergency rooms across the United States. Particularly in cases where other medical professionals can quickly list off the testing that could have clarified someone’s medical state, a patient affected by a diagnostic failure may have experienced medical malpractice.

A failure to diagnose a patient could be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit can compensate a patient or their surviving family members for the medical costs, lost wages and other expenses caused by a medical professional’s diagnostic mistakes. Recognizing diagnostic failure as a common form of malpractice can potentially help people to seek justice when they do not receive appropriate care at a hospital.