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39 percent of internists accused of failure to diagnose

Oregon residents who are suffering from unknown maladies rely on their doctors to discover their conditions and how to treat them. In order to make an accurate diagnosis and provide the proper treatment, it is necessary for an internist to gather as much information as possible about the patient’s history and current condition. A failure to diagnose the condition, diagnose it too late or prescribe the wrong course of treatment can have serious health consequences for the patient.

A recent study conducted by the largest medical malpractice insurer in the county that is owned by physicians, The Doctors Company, revealed that 39 percent of the complaints filed against internists have to do with diagnosis issues. Three main criteria were used in conducting the study – miscommunication between doctor and patient, patient failure to follow a treatment plan and issues with obtaining a proper patient assessment. Unlike family physicians and those in other specialties, the diagnosis errors of an internist are not due to lack of knowledge or skill. 

Instead, lapses in reasoning and mistakes are more often the cause. The results of the study will be used to help internists avoid the pitfalls that tend to lead to making diagnosis and treatment errors. In the meantime, patients here in Oregon and elsewhere could become the victims of a lapse in judgment.

Each year, many people suffer the consequences of an internist’s failure to diagnose. Those who are seriously injured -- or families of those who lost a loved one under these circumstances retain the right to file medical malpractice claims against the party or parties believed responsible. Any restitution received could assist with medical bills and other damages incurred because of the error. 

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