Around 80 percent of radiology-related medical liability claims in North Carolina and elsewhere are due to misdiagnosis, according to a new study. Worse, over 80 percent of those misdiagnosis claims involve patients who have died or suffered a permanent injury.
The study was conducted by Coverys, a leading medical liability insurer. The company said that radiology errors are common and have the potential to cause severe harm to patients. In order to improve patient safety and reduce errors, researchers analyzed over 10,000 closed Coverys claims filed from 2013 to 2017, identifying the most common risk factors and safety issues. They discovered that around 15 percent of all diagnosis-related medical malpractice claims were filed against radiologists. Of those, 80 percent involved the misinterpretation of medical tests and over 80 percent involved permanent injuries or death. They found that cancer was the most commonly misdiagnosed disease, with breast, lung, pancreatic as well as ovarian cancers involved with the highest percentage claims.
The authors of the study made several recommendations to help radiologists reduce errors and claims. These included adopting standardized treatment protocols, utilizing decision support films and creating templates for reporting. They also recommended that radiologists provide one report for patient imaging and a separate report for incidental findings and recommendations. They further recommended that radiologists implement performance improvement methods and use clear language to avoid confusion.
A doctor's failure to diagnose cancer can have grave consequences for patients, including a worsened medical condition and death. Misdiagnosed patients may be able to find relief by filing a medical malpractice claim against the responsible doctor and/or hospital. Likewise, families that lose a loved one due to a misdiagnosis may benefit from filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.