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Diagnosis errors the top cause of medical malpractice claims

Kentucky readers may be concerned to learn that diagnostic errors are the top cause of medical malpractice claims in the United States. A recent study was conducted by Coverys, a Boston-based medical liability insurer.

Coverys analyzed over 10,000 closed medical liability claims filed against its clients from 2013 through 2017. It found that diagnostic mistakes accounted for 33 percent of all claims and 47 percent of indemnity payouts. It also found that 54 percent of diagnosis-related claims involved high severity incidents, and 36 percent resulted in a patient's death. Another 36 percent of diagnosis-related claims took place in non-emergency outpatient facilities while 24 percent occurred in emergency rooms or urgent care facilities.

The top medical conditions associated with diagnosis-related claims were cancer, infection, fracture and dislocation, cardiovascular conditions and myocardial infarction. Approximately 33 percent of the claims alleged that the doctor failed to properly evaluate a patient, and 50 percent alleged that there were testing mistakes. To help reduce diagnostic errors, Coverys suggests that doctors use checklists while they are taking down a patient's history and performing examinations. It also recommends improving the tracking system used for patient specimens and developing a consultation protocol for patient referrals.

Diagnostic errors can cause a patient to suffer a needlessly worsened medical condition. In some cases, a medical mistake can even lead to a patient's death. As a result, doctors who fail to properly diagnose patients may be sued for medical malpractice by the people they harmed. For example, the victim of a misdiagnosis might file a lawsuit seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other related damages. Likewise, the family of a patient who died due to a medical error may be able to file a wrongful death suit seeking compensation for funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of companionship and more.

Source: Claims Journal, "Coverys: New Research Analyzes Diagnostic-Related Medical Malpractice Claims," March 15, 2018

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