In Texas, diagnostic errors can mean that patients do not get the treatment they need and might suffer a worsening of their condition and a poorer prognosis. While misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are problematic, they are also common types of medical malpractice. Understanding why doctors might make diagnostic errors and what can be done about them might help people to prevent bad outcomes.
Why diagnostic errors occur
Doctors make diagnostic errors for both common and uncommon medical conditions. Even common conditions like strokes, heart attacks, and cancer can be misdiagnosed. There are many reasons why doctors make diagnostic errors, including the following:
• Patient presents with different symptoms than the most commonly expected types
• Doctor fails to communicate with or listen to a patient
• Doctor fails to order diagnostic lab tests
• Doctor fails to read lab tests correctly or communicate with lab staff
• Doctor fails to coordinate with specialists for help
• Patient does not tell the doctor all of the symptoms he or she is experiencing
Preventing diagnostic errors
Patients should make sure that they tell their doctors all of the symptoms they are experiencing and should also bring in lists of medications they are taking. They should also be prepared to get a second opinion. Doctors need to listen to patients carefully and ask questions about anything that might be unclear. They should also make sure to order appropriate lab tests and communicate with lab personnel about any questions they might have. A doctor who is unsure of a diagnosis should reach out to a specialist for help.
People who are misdiagnosed might receive unnecessary treatment that could potentially cause harm. Those who have serious conditions for which their diagnoses are delayed might suffer a worsening of their conditions and additional injuries or death. People may want to talk to a medical malpractice attorney if they have been harmed by diagnostic errors.