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Misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis: Causes and differences

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs in the U.S. at a rate of 225,000 patients annually, according to statistics, but some reports raise it to 400,000. Many studies rank medical errors third as a top cause of death in the United States behind cancer and heart disease. Two common types of medical malpractice in New Jersey include missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis, but the two differ.

Misdiagnosis vs. missed diagnosis

Reports show that missed diagnosis and misdiagnosis are the main reasons for many medical malpractice claims. A misdiagnosis means that a medical professional diagnosed a condition but not the right one.

A missed diagnosis, or delayed diagnosis, involves a doctor not diagnosing any condition after the patient presents symptoms. The doctor may not test at all or miss a group of symptoms during test procedures.

A wrong or late diagnosis can cause a delay in treatment or even incorrect treatment. By the time the real diagnosis gets discovered, it may be too late to treat it effectively.

Causes of misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis

A misdiagnosis may occur because many conditions closely resemble another, such as heart attacks, panic attacks and angina. Lab testing can also produce flawed results from faulty machines or human error if doctors misread the results.

Doctors don’t always spend enough time with patients when they are busy, causing them to rush through exams. Emergency rooms also present an increased risk of misdiagnosis because of the hectic environment and stressed staff. Outpatient care commonly causes one in 20 cases of misdiagnosis, which may result from not having an established doctor-patient relationship.

A doctor’s personal bias against a race, gender or group of people often causes diagnostic failure. For example, a doctor may think that a young adult just wants to get drugs when they complain of headaches, causing the doctor to miss crucial signs of an illness.

Misdiagnosis can seriously harm patients. Not all medical errors are considered malpractice, but the doctor should still uphold a standard of care. If a patient thinks they have suffered from medical malpractice, they should meet with an attorney to discuss the case.