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Diagnostic errors a major element in malpractice claims

On July 11, the journal Diagnosis published a study saying that 34% of medical malpractice claims involving either serious injuries or death are related to a diagnostic error. Out of 55,377 closed malpractice claims that were filed from 2006 to 2015, 11,592 cited such errors. Pennsylvania residents should know that the three conditions most liable to a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis were cancer, vascular events and infection.

In fact, 74.1% of diagnosis-related claims involved one of the "Big Three," as authors called them, with the most commonly reported of these three conditions being lung cancer, stroke and sepsis, respectively. The rate of misdiagnosis differed based on the setting. For example, cancer was most frequently missed in outpatient clinics while vascular events were missed more in emergency departments. Tackling these specific issues may do much to reduce the rate of injuries and deaths.

It may also save the healthcare industry money. The same study shows that diagnostic errors are responsible for 28% of all payouts. Another report, this time from malpractice insurer Coverys, states that diagnosis-related claims account for 47% of payouts in the emergency department. This is troubling since 50% of all in-patient hospital admissions start in the ED.

When a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is clearly the result of negligence, the victim may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim. However, it will likely take legal assistance to get the case off the ground. With a lawyer, a victim may strive for a settlement out of court and be reimbursed for losses like medical expenses, lost wages and a diminished capacity to work.

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