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Reports find misdiagnosis behind most malpractice claims

Pennsylvania residents may not know that misdiagnoses are the most common reason for medical malpractice claims. This was the conclusion that two malpractice insurance carriers came to separately, and it is backed up by previous studies.

In 2017, University of Michigan researchers analyzed 62,966 malpractice claims filed by hospitalized patients and found that 22 percent were diagnosis-related. The National Academy of Medicine said in 2015 that diagnostic errors may be the third leading cause of death among hospitalized patients.

Coverys, the first of the two malpractice insurers, analyzed 1,800 closed claims against physicians between 2013 and 2017 and found that 46 percent were diagnosis-related. Forty-five percent of the patients in these cases died. The diagnosis-related claims made up 68 percent of all indemnity costs that were paid out.

The second report was from The Doctors Company and focused on 1,215 claims closed from 2008 to 2017. Of these, 38 percent of the pediatric claims involved misdiagnosis. Inadequate patient assessments were behind most of the misdiagnoses, including failure to capture a complete family history and to perform a complete physical exam.

Primary care providers are responsible for these assessments; they are also responsible for the selection of patients' treatments and for the monitoring of high-risk medications. Besides inadequate assessments, allegations involving referrals, follow-ups and the ordering of diagnostic tests were common.

An inadequate patient assessment may have been the result of doctor negligence, in which case the patient should not be responsible for the expenses accrued and injuries incurred from that time forward. Those who believe they have good grounds for a malpractice claim may want to see a lawyer for an assessment. The lawyer might request an inquiry with the local medical board and hire investigators to make their own inquiry. Victims may leave negotiations to their lawyer.

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