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Institute of Medicine Cautions Patients About Misdiagnosis

By Paul da Costa on September 30, 2015


The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently issued a report warning about diagnostic errors and the minimal attention they receive.  The report could not get a good count of the diagnostic errors or the frequency of serious resulting consequences, but it offered a conservative estimate: approximately five percent of adults seeking outpatient care experience a diagnostic error each year. 

While this number may seem low, it certainly adds up over time.  The IOM is strongly recommending that health organizations figure out how to identify diagnostic errors, so that they can learn from their mistakes and prevent similar ones in the future.  In addition, the IOM is pushing for the government to increase its research efforts.

The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine prompted the IOM’s study.  Dr. Mark Graber of the Society reminds the public that this “is not about blame. It's about understanding how errors arise and what we can do to prevent them.”  It is important to share errors, rather than to cover them up and be embarrassed by them.  A woman who was misdiagnosed twelve years ago with a stomach ulcer that was actually advanced kidney cancer, is now a patient advocate encouraging people to obtain their medical records right away so that they can ask their healthcare providers important questions.

There are several possible causes for the misdiagnoses, including misread or misplaced test results, hurried visits, unclear communication, or difficulty of sharing electronic medical records.  Sometimes a diagnostician has recently seen a particular malady, so it may be at the forefront of her mind. 

Health providers are urged by the IOM to take patient complaints more seriously, give them their medical information faster, and encourage them to ask questions. 

If you think you may have been misdiagnosed or a doctor failed to timely diagnose you, you may have a medical malpractice claim.  Please contact Paul M. da Costa, Esq. at Snyder & Sarno, LLCto discuss your potential claim.  Call us today at (973) 274-5200.

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