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Study determines why health diagnoses are delayed

A review of more than 100 outpatient cases was conducted by the Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety in an effort to determine the reasons why outpatient misdiagnoses and treatment delays occur. The results of the study may have Colorado veterans nodding their heads in agreement, having personally experienced the exact type of frustrating delays made public in August's edition of the VA's Health Affairs publication.

Through research using VA reports that had been done over a period of seven years, it was determined that major factors contributing to delays include poor teamwork, a lack of coordinating care, miscommunication, bureaucratic mix-ups and patients failing to show up for appointments. The typical delay in diagnosis and treatment spanned a period of four months. The VA's printed article noted that these delays were potentially as harmful to patients as a failure to diagnose would be.

Even though all VA medical clinics and hospitals use the same electronic system for patients' health records, the review of 111 outpatient cases elucidated the system's failure to prevent unnecessary and potentially critical delays in proper medical care. Many patients who need to see a specialist for follow-up care are not referred, and physicians frequently fail to flag a treatment request as urgent. In addition, 7 percent of the reviewed delays were found to be the result of administrative mistakes.

While it is unfortunate that any veterans are having to endure such delays in diagnosis and treatment, in many cases, these negligent delays may be responsible for worsened conditions. If an individual has been the recipient of medical care that has involved delayed treatment, delayed examination or delayed diagnosis, legal assistance may be helpful in acquiring proper and necessary medical care or funds for damages.

Source: Amednews.com, "Study details how primary care diagnoses get delayed", Kevin B. O'reilly, August 26, 2013

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