Some people in California may be surprised to learn that most malpractice claims related to eye issues do not happen because of rare or challenging diseases or complications. According to a study by the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company, many malpractice claims are related to the relatively common condition of retinal detachment and its misdiagnosis.
Diagnosing retinal detachment early is critical for a successful reattachment. The procedure becomes more difficult and has poorer visual results with a later diagnosis. However, the study, which examined more than 1,600 malpractice claims filed against ophthalmologists, found that almost 14% of claims over a period of seven years were the result of diagnostic errors. More than one-third of the diagnostic errors involved the retinas, and 29% were retinal detachment. One of the researchers pointed out that while most ophthalmologists would be confident about their ability to detect retinal tears and detachment, the study showed that this was not necessarily the case. Among the misdiagnosed patients, 85% had risk factors for retinal detachment.
Several elements can reduce the likelihood of misdiagnosis. Staff should be trained on how to get a thorough history, which includes noting any risk factors. They also need to be polite to patients even if they are busy. Brusqueness could mean patients do not follow up. Patient education is necessary as well. This means communicating in clear, understandable language instead of medical jargon to draw out the necessary information and tell the patient what to look for. Finally, physicians need to be focused. Distractions during an exam could include staff interruptions, patients receiving cell phone calls and even the need to comply with more complex regulations.
Someone who believes they have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice may want to consult an attorney. The legal system recognizes that some conditions are difficult to diagnose or treat, so whether the patient received a reasonable standard of care is also taken into consideration. If a medical professional was negligent, the patient may be able to sue for compensation.