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Study says failure to diagnose is most common malpractice claim

Thousands of medical malpractice claims are filed each year across the country, including many here in Oregon. One physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, The Doctor Company, decided to conduct a study to determine the number one source of these claims. It was discovered that the failure to diagnose is the primary complaint by patients. 

The study analyzed 464 claims that were closed (through settlement or otherwise) between the years of 2007 and 2014. The claims involved approximately 2,100 general care physicians who primarily work with inpatients at hospitals, which are commonly referred to as hospitalists. The study found that an alarming 36 percent of the claims were the result of a missed, incorrect or delayed diagnosis.

Of those claims, 35 percent of the misdiagnoses were due to an inadequate or incomplete first assessment of the patient. Without a complete medical and/or family history, it would be easy to miss something crucial that could help the physician arrive at the correct diagnosis. Further, if a doctor does not take the time to understand all of the patient's symptoms and order the appropriate tests, an error can occur. The highest percentage of misdiagnoses was for intestinal disorders, followed by strokes, heart attacks and sepsis. Other disorders and conditions were also identified, but they were further down the list.

This might be only one study, but it illustrates that failure to diagnose is a real problem in the medical field. The percentages and numbers identified by the data represent real people who suffered at the hands of a doctor in whom the patient and his or her family placed trust. Oregon residents who suffered serious injury, or lost a loved one, due to a delayed, incorrect or missed diagnosis retain the right to file a medical malpractice claim seeking restitution for the damages they incurred.

Source: medscape.com, "Diagnostic Missteps Kindle Claims Against Hospitalists", Marcia Frellick, March 7, 2016

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