Diagnosing a disease is a complicated procedure that involves dozens of variables. Misdiagnoses are always a risk; however, when doctors overlook obvious symptoms, misdiagnosis crosses the line into medical malpractice.
In a study by Kaiser Health News, researchers discovered a crisis of misdiagnoses in the American healthcare system. Estimates show that up to 20 percent of patients experience a misdiagnosis, but the number may be only a fraction of the problem. Unfortunately, a large percentage of patients who experienced a misdiagnosis see their conditions worsen to cause severe harm or death.
Often when a doctor makes a misdiagnosis, the patient does not seek the help of malpractice lawyers or a second medical opinion. The result is a serious under reporting of misdiagnoses to malpractice lawyers.
The Cost Of Misdiagnosis
A misdiagnosis affects patients on several different levels, and the impact can be felt even after the diagnosis is corrected. Some of the effects include:
Physical And Emotional Strain
Without the correct diagnosis of the patient’s condition, the patient continues to experience pain and discomfort. In addition, patients may be subjected to unnecessary testing and painful procedures to try to discover why treatments are not working.
As time passes without any improvement to the patient’s condition, patients begin to suffer from mental and emotional strain. The stress of the situation increases the risk of spats at home, while the pain of the condition makes it difficult to socialize with friends and family.
Treating the wrong condition can cost patients thousands of dollars in additional medical expenses. Analysts at the Institute of Medicine believe that misdiagnoses account for up to 30 percent of all healthcare spending, at a total cost of more than $750 billion a year.
In addition, patients struggle to meet their personal financial obligations due to time lost at work. A patient may lose weeks of pay as a result of his or her physical pain and the time needed to visit a doctor for treatment.
For injured patients, there is some relief. Most malpractice lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they do not collect a fee unless the client receives compensation for the claim. This allows patients to seek the assistance of malpractice lawyers, without the ongoing cost of attorney fees.
By demonstrating that another doctor, with the same set of evidence, would have arrived at the correct diagnosis, malpractice lawyers can seek compensation for clients, and ease the pain of misdiagnosis.