A woman was recently reported as suing Quest Diagnostics and Dr. Michael E. Herrmann for medical malpractice in the State of Illinois. Ashley McCoy claims emotional distress following a diagnosis of HIV.
The distress, according to McCoy, occurred not only because the news was frightening to her but because the medical personnel issued written and oral statements that McCoy had HIV to other people at SLUCare Physicians of St. Louis University. A re-test, however, at another medical laboratory found McCoy actually did not have the disease. The case is cited on an attorney's blog, reviewing the specific impact emotionally on patients where wrong diagnoses have been made.
In a survey of physicians, doctors were found to remember their diagnostic errors and shared their experiences with others, in order to highlight some of the problems and reduce the potential for misdiagnoses. What the survey found is the most common missed or delayed diagnosis were the following: pulmonary embolism (4.5%), drug reactions or overdose (4.5%), lung cancer (3.9%), colorectal cancer (3.3%), acute coronary syndrome (3.1%), breast cancer (3.1%), and stroke (2.6%).
Medical errors can occur at any point during patient interaction and testing. What the survey found was they occurred more often in the testing phase (44%), followed by clinician assessment errors (32%), history taking (10%), physical examination (10%), and referral or consultation errors and delays (3%).
In the Archives of Physician's Weekly, these reports point out medical errors during the diagnostic phase to be of consequence in survey of doctors. When doctors make a mistake, it's something they remember and want to fix most of the time.
Deaths by wrong diagnoses are between 40,000 and 80,000/year according to Bottom Line. The impact on patient care and also on the doctors themselves is significant. Studies have found doctors have increased stress when they discover their mistakes. Studies have also found that most errors have to do with youth or physician fatigue. Diagnostic errors have been found to be more frequent than medication errors.
But one of the most serious, and frequent reasons, for misdiagnoses has to do with physician bias, according to a study reported this year in U.S. News and World Report. Some doctors have fixated on a specific problem or issue which can override good judgment at times, the report maintains.
The impact of misdiagnoses has meant an increased emphasis on prevention of them and more studies related to how physician stress and bias impact treatment, according to the experts cited in some of the research. Many of these reports also cite the importance of improving diagnoses as a way of reducing the cost of health care as well as the actual impact of the problem directly on patient outcomes. Wrong diagnosis can lead to serious outcomes for both patient and physician even as safeguards of medical review and assessment are being put in place. So what can people do?
While medical errors, poor judgment and wrong diagnosis can lead to improper treatment and even death, there are more and more sources providing information directly to consumers in order to help prevent medical mistakes because the problem is serious enough for people to be vigilant on many levels. One of these sources gives 20 tips to help prevent medical errors in children. The physician fact sheet is an effort to reduce medical errors by providing parents with a detailed list of questions parents can use to accurately describe symptoms. It is one of the many ways physicians have acted upon the problem of misdiagnosis and its impact on patient care that continues to be an issue in the health care system today. It is said to be one of the ways of avoiding wrong diagnosis and the subsequent increased costs of health care because of them.