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Diagnostic errors more common than surgical errors

When an individual living in Colorado or elsewhere goes to a doctor, he or she is more likely to receive an incorrect diagnosis than be the victim of a surgical or a medication error. This is based on a study done by Johns Hopkins University and published in the BMJ Quality and Safety journal; it showed that in the last 25 years, misdiagnosis was the most common error made by medical professionals. Incorrect or delayed diagnosis caused more patient harm than than medication errors or surgical mistakes based on the number of claims filed and penalty payouts.

Researchers took data from the National Practitioner Data Bank and their findings are based on over 350,000 medical malpractice claims that had payouts. Of these claims, over 28 percent were due to misdiagnosis. The mistakes listed in these claims were also those most likely to end up causing disability or the death of a patient. Based on this information, researchers have extrapolated that between 80,000 to 160,000 individuals have been harmed by a wrong or late diagnosis.

Despite their prevalence, diagnosis errors receive less attention than other types of medical errors because they are harder to track and take longer to determine. On the other hand, a surgical error is usually immediately apparent.

Misdiagnosis means that a person will not receive needed medical treatment in a timely manner, and it could even cause them to take the wrong medication for an illness they do not have. Those who have been misdiagnosed may want to speak with a lawyer to find out if they have legal recourse.

Source: Huffington Post, "Diagnostic Errors More Common In Medical Malpractice Claims Than Surgical, Medication Errors: Study," April 24, 2013

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