The Institute of Medicine (“IOM”) released a sweeping report in late September on the enormous problem of wrong or delayed diagnoses in American healthcare, finding that such failures to diagnose are so prevalent that it concluded “most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences,” and indicating “urgent change is warranted to address this challenge.”

The IOM, which is a division of the prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, also concluded, however, that the status quo of widespread diagnostic errors is not inevitable, and that, “[i]mproving the diagnostic process is not only possible, but also represents a moral, professional, and public health imperative.” The report defined diagnostic error as including a failure to establish an accurate or timely explanation of a patient’s health problems or failing to communicate those results to the patient.

The report found that 5% of all adults who receive outpatient health care will receive a wrong diagnosis each year. More alarming, 10% percent of patient deaths result from a medical professional’s diagnostic error, and between 6 and 17% of adverse patient events in hospitals result from a failure to properly diagnose the patient’s health problems.

The IOM provided eight recommendations as part of its call for “urgent change” to the medical profession to combat the fact that “[d]iagnostic errors persist throughout all settings of care and continue to harm an unacceptable number of patients.” These recommendations include:

  • Facilitating more effective teamwork among medical professionals in communicating with patients and family
  • Enhancing health care professional education and training in the diagnostic process
  • Ensuring that health information technologies support families and professionals in the diagnostic process
  • Developing and deploying strategies for health care professionals to learn from their diagnostic errors to avoid repeating them
  • Developing a reporting system and “medical liability system” to learn from diagnostic errors and near misses
  • Designing a payment and care delivery environment that supports proper diagnosis
  • Providing funding for research on diagnostic errors

When a patient suffers injury or death from a medical professional’s diagnostic error, oftentimes the victim’s only avenue to being compensated for his or her injuries, pain and suffering, and high medical bills is to work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to get the help they need and are properly owed under our laws. Diagnostic error is in fact the leading cause of malpractice claims, and the legal system is there to help victims of diagnostic error hold the liable parties accountable for their errors.

If you or a family member has suffered injuries as a result of a medical professional’s failed or delayed diagnosis, or due to other forms of medical malpractice, please contact O’Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC in Lexington to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss helping you or a loved one obtain the compensation you need and deserve.