There are more medical diagnostic tools and resources today than ever before. Patients can get better answers faster, and that can have a dramatic impact on the treatment a person may need.
Considering how critical a diagnosis is, any delay or inaccuracy has the potential to cause devastating, possibly life-threatening harm. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of claims involving missed diagnosis resulted in permanent injuries or death. When this happens, a patient or loved one may decide to file a medical malpractice claim. And according to a recent report, these claims often name a radiologist.
Missed, incorrect diagnoses
The report states that radiologists are named in 15 percent of malpractice claims involving a diagnosis. Often, these claims involve allegations that a radiologist misinterpreted clinical tests.
The most common diagnostic tests radiologists misinterpret are those used to diagnose various types of cancer, including breast and pancreatic cancer.
Addressing the problem
Filing a medical malpractice claim after a delayed or missed diagnosis is one way to address the problem. It can be critical in holding negligent parties accountable and allowing patients to pursue compensation for the harm caused by a misdiagnosis. However, preventing errors from occurring in the first place is crucial.
The authors of the recent report making recommendations for reducing diagnostic errors. These suggestions include:
- Establishing criteria for when radiologists should perform a second read or second opinion
- Creating a timeline for performing second reads to avoid delays
- Avoiding non-specific language and phrases, like “cannot rule out” when performing a second read of a film
- Implementing a checklist for radiologists to avoid failures stemming from cognitive biases and outdated technology or practices
Unfortunately, not every medical mistake is preventable. However, these and similar solutions could potentially reduce the occurrence of diagnostic errors, which should be a top priority for medical facilities across New Mexico.