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Coalition works to reduce diagnostic errors

Being misdiagnosed can have fatal consequences for some patients. The first U.S. Ebola patient, for example, was originally diagnosed in an emergency room with sinusitis but died later. Many Maryland patients might already know that diagnostic errors happen relatively frequently, so it may be encouraging to learn that the Coalition to Improve Diagnosis is working to reduce this issue.

According to a study published in 2014, approximately 12 million diagnostic errors involving outpatients occur every year. This means that one in 20 outpatients, or 5 percent, are misdiagnosed. However, the coalition's chairman believes that the actual rate of diagnostic errors is about 10 percent, and every member of the group agrees that diagnostic errors are overlooked.

Some of the issue, according to the coalition chairman, is that a wrong diagnosis could occur for a variety of reasons, such as clinical reasoning, communication errors, imaging issues, problems deciphering tests, and symptoms that are inconsistent or that suggest several conditions. Another part of the problem is that physicians do not know that they missed a diagnosis until the correct one is made, so the consequences of a misdiagnosis can range from benign to fatal. In some cases, patients who seek a second opinion never let the original physician know.

To resolve this, the coalition chairman says that every hospital needs an approach that measures diagnostic errors and that creates an appropriate response. Some of these measures may include educational interventions, more collaboration between clinicians and laboratories, and better patient hand offs. The coalition is collaborating with board-certified physicians to create an educational approach and is working with patients to create tools for them to help both sides reduce errors.

While the many factors above could contribute to a misdiagnosis, negligence is another factor. Patients who suffer costly doctor visits and improper treatment because of negligence may want to file medical malpractice lawsuits. Since these claims are often complex, affected patients might turn to personal injury attorneys for assistance.

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