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Study indicates alarming outpatient misdiagnosis rate

Readers of this medical malpractice blog may be familiar with some patient safety initiatives focusing on new programs under the Affordable Care Act. What readers may not realize, however, is that a majority of these and other patient safety improvement programs have been limited to inpatient hospital care. 

That focus excludes a substantial number of Americans who seek a doctor’s care in an office or other outpatient setting. Each year, about 80 percent of adults in the United States seek outpatient care. It also ignores the approximately 12 million Americans who are victims of diagnostic errors in such settings. Although that number represents a misdiagnosis rate of slightly over 5 percent, the sheer volume of the country’s outpatient care means that a substantial number of American patients are affected.

At best, a misdiagnosis may only result in delay. However, time may be critical for certain conditions, and such delays may result in greater patient injury. In other cases, an even worse outcome might result from patients who adversely react to medications or treatments designed for conditions they don’t actually have.

An attorney that focuses on medical malpractice and negligence claims knows that doctors are expected to use a great deal of care in diagnosing conditions and prescribing medications to treat those conditions. Many medications carry side effects, and a misdiagnosis that needlessly exposes a patient to prescription medications could lead to serious injury. Prescription medication is a powerful tool in health care, and it demands an equal measure of care and respect. If a health care professional failed to provide that duty of care, an attorney can help an injured patient prepare a strong claim for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages.

Source: New York Post, "Odds your doctor has misdiagnosed you? Frighteningly high," April 17, 2014 

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