Is your doctor right about your diagnosis?

Whether you are a patient or the loved one of a sick family member, you put your trust in medical professionals to determine what's wrong - and fix it. Unfortunately, it's far too common for errors to occur during the diagnostic phase of designing a treatment plan. These errors could be caused by faulty equipment, miscommunication or negligence. Sadly, what might seem like a simple error might ultimately prove fatal.

A recent piece in the Washington Post highlights the proliferation of missed and incorrect diagnoses across the United States. In a study published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, researchers examined the case files of 286 patients who sought second opinions from the Mayo Clinic's internal medicine department after first receiving a diagnosis from their primary care physician, nurse practitioner or physician's assistant.

What were the results?

Of the 286 cases reviewed, the researchers found that 62 cases received a second diagnosis "distinctly different" from the first. This means 21 percent - more than one in every five - of the patients had initially received the incorrect diagnosis. In 12 percent of the cases (36 files) the patient received the same diagnosis. In the remaining 188 cases, it was found that the patient had received a partially correct initial diagnosis, but there were "better defined/refined" diagnoses by the second opinion.

What should you do?

James M. Naessens, a professor of health services research at the Mayo Clinic who led the study, was quick to caution that a (diagnosis is) "not going to be 20 percent wrong every time." He added to his comments suggesting that a second opinion should be a given when a patient is facing a serious diagnosis such as cancer, heart disease or the need for surgery.

If you are concerned that you received a misdiagnosis which led to a worsening condition, don't hesitate to learn more about your legal options for compensation. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can answer your questions.

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