Patients in California expect doctors to give them the best possible care when diagnosing symptoms. Health care professionals who don’t follow a basic standard of care could get charged with medical malpractice. Among the most common forms of medical malpractice are missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis, but the terms differ.
Misdiagnosis vs. missed diagnosis
A misdiagnosis refers to a doctor diagnosing a condition but not correctly. This could cause the real condition to worsen while the patient undergoes unneeded treatment. Conditions often get misdiagnosed because symptoms overlap, such as chest pains getting diagnosed as a panic attack.
Missed diagnosis, or delayed diagnosis, means the doctor didn’t diagnose a condition at all. The patient doesn’t get any treatment, and the doctor may tell them it’s not serious or it’s all in their head, which is especially common for women patients. Some patients keep seeking answers from other doctors, who may see them as doctor shopping.
Reasons for missed or misdiagnosis
When patients visit a doctor, they commonly expect doctors to ask them questions and evaluate symptoms to form a correct diagnosis. However, a study from Johns Hopkins University found that 40,000 to 80,000 Americans die from misdiagnosis and around 12 million Americans experience diagnostic errors yearly. In the study, the most diagnostic errors came from the top three misdiagnosed conditions: infections, cancers and vascular events.
Statistics show that more errors happen in outpatient care and emergency rooms, making up over 70% of diagnostic error cases. Doctors rarely have an established relationship with patients in these situations, which means they don’t have the proper medical records, and ERs are often hurried.
In a standard care facility setting, the doctor commonly only has time to spend 15 to 20 minutes with each patient. In addition, women often present heart attack and stroke symptoms differently, which can cause diagnostic errors.
Filing a medical malpractice claim
Doctors do not have to be perfect, but they should not take shortcuts that harm patients and lead to medical malpractice claims. If a patient feels that a doctor’s neglect caused their issue, they may be able to recover damages with a lawyer’s help.