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Attempting to remedy medical errors

Florida residents may not be aware of the recent statistics concerning misdiagnosis occurring in the health care industry. Missing a diagnosis or diagnosing the wrong medical issue continues to be a major problem. An analysis of malpractice cases that have been filed over the past several years reveals that the most common diagnostic errors are cardiovascular disease, infections and cancers.

Researchers are trying to better define this dilemma by conducting autopsies as a source of misdiagnosis data. The chance that an autopsy will reveal significant unsuspected diagnoses in a case is very significant. Newer diseases in recent decades account for a majority of misdiagnoses detected during an autopsy. Results continue to reveal that conditions like pulmonary embolism, bowel perforation and myocardial infarction are the most common errors.

A study looking at data from 1999 to 2006 found that the overall rate of major errors that resulted in fatalities was 17.2 percent. Another study conducted in 2009 analyzed 583 physician-reported mistakes from medical facilities nationwide and found that the five most common misdiagnoses were drug reaction or overdose, pulmonary embolism, colorectal cancer, acute coronary syndrome and lung cancer. Following were breast cancer, stroke, congestive heart failure, various types of fractures and abscess.

There may be many reasons for a failure to diagnose. Another analysis focused on errors in the radiology department and found that 70 percent of errors were perceptual, in which the radiologist failed to see something important on the film. The other 30 percent of errors were cognitive, in which the radiologist saw something on the film but believed there was minimal significance to it. The risks associated with a misdiagnosis are significant because it can cause lengthy hospital stays, disabilities, expensive medical bills, worsening medical conditions, catastrophic injury and in some cases death.

Source: Medpage Today, "Misdiagnosis: Can It Be Remedied?", Joyce Frieden, December 24, 2014

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