Doctors go to school for years to acquire the knowledge necessary to diagnose and treat people. When you go to see your physician or seek evaluation at an emergency room or urgent care center, you put your faith in a physician’s education, discernment and attention to detail.
The sad truth is that many doctors fail to perform the appropriate steps when diagnosing their patients. In fact, some of them will jump to conclusions without following the right diagnostic process. These doctors may commit acts of medical malpractice when their corner-cutting ways result in diagnostic mistakes that affect the care their patients receive.
Diagnostic mistakes are a common and often preventable form of medical malpractice.
Every doctor should adhere to diagnostic best practices
Although every physician has their own approach to the practice of medicine, all should strive to do right by their patients while avoiding causing harm. When someone reports symptoms, a doctor should follow a diagnostic process to determine what causes those symptoms.
First, they need to listen to the patient to understand the symptoms and examine medical records to understand their current situation. Then, they may need to request specific diagnostic tests. These may range from imaging tests like X-rays and CT scans to bacterial cultures to check for the presence of specific pathogens.
A simple issue like a cough, for example, could be the result of a common viral cold that will go away on its own in a few days or it could be an early warning sign of lung cancer or mesothelioma. Only by ruling out all other possible causes or reaching an affirmative diagnosis by detecting the presence of a tumor or pathogen can a doctor accurately diagnose someone.
Why proper diagnosis is so important
If your doctor simply assumes that your cough is from a cold, they could delay the diagnosis of your cancer by months. In that time, the cancer could progress to a more advanced stage, impacting your prognosis or limiting your treatment options.
Failing to diagnose someone or diagnosing them inaccurately can do significant harm to the patient involved, especially if they undergo unnecessary treatment or have a progressive condition that doesn’t get diagnosed in a timely manner. Identifying diagnostic mistakes as a form of medical malpractice can help you hold a doctor who failed to provide adequate care accountable for the impact of that failure.