Since the Institute of Medicine published its well-known "To Err is Human" report in 1999, hospitals in North Carolina and across the nation have made improving patient safety a priority. However, diagnostic errors have not seen the same amount of improvement, and they still affect one in 20 patients in outpatient facilities.
Not only can diagnostic errors cause physical harm to patients, but they can also have an impact on their emotional or psychological health and their finances. Additionally, diagnostic errors make up a large portion of medical malpractice claims that are filed in the U.S. every year. There are several reasons why diagnostic errors may occur. These include inadequate communication between health care staff, limited feedback when it comes to diagnosing patients and a system that is not designed to assist physicians with the diagnostic process.
The IOM offered goals that could help reduce the number of diagnostic errors that may occur in the future. This includes better training when it comes to diagnosing patients, establishing a system that supports the diagnostic process and allowing physicians to learn from the errors that are made as well as providing funding for research that could prevent diagnostic errors.
A failure to make a correct diagnosis or a similar doctor error could result in serious harm to the patient. In addition to the patient's condition significantly worsening, the victim may face high medical expenses and a loss of wages if unable to work for prolonged periods. A medical malpractice attorney may review a patient's hospital records and obtain the opinions of medical experts when seeking to make a determination as to whether such error constituted negligence.