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Most missed diagnoses occur in doctor's office

New Jersey residents who have a primary care physician may be surprised by the findings of a new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association's Internal Medicine, which show that most misdiagnoses occur in a primary care doctor's office and are related to basic factors in the consultation. When doctors misdiagnose diseases, they may face medical malpractice lawsuits from the victims based on the damages they suffer. While the study found no single cause for missed diagnoses, several contributing factors were determined to play a role in this problem.

At least 80 percent of misdiagnoses were due to problems during the initial patient consultation. These errors could occur during the physical exam or during the taking of a medical history from the patient. 20 percent of all misdiagnoses were determined to be due to failure to make or take advantage of referrals to specialists.

While 16 percent of misdiagnoses involved factors related to patients, 84 percent involved factors related to healthcare professionals, such as mixed-up test results. The author of the study notes that the amounts of time doctors spend with patients has decreased dramatically in view of rising health care costs and other factors; this can cause doctors to miss important diagnoses and lead to patient injury and illness.

Patients who have suffered injury from a missed medical diagnosis or other form of medical malpractice may decide to file a lawsuit for damages. In many cases, these victims seek the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney in this process who may be able to help the victims in these cases recover damages for their medical bills, pain and suffering and other costs related to the doctor's failure to diagnose serious conditions.

Source: American Medical News, "Primary care time squeeze explains error in diagnosis," Kevin O'Reilly, March 11, 2013

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