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What Are the Dangers of a Delayed Diagnosis?

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Patients trust that their physicians provide timely, correct diagnoses after examinations. However, this does not always happen, and the consequences can be devastating. The dangers of a delayed diagnosis can change someone’s life forever by causing severe complications, unwarranted medical procedures, and even death. In some cases, a delayed diagnosis will qualify as medical malpractice.

How Does a Delayed Diagnosis Happen?

In many instances, an accurate diagnosis is made, but the patient is not contacted promptly – failing to take appropriate action on abnormal test results seriously impacts patient safety. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Patient Safety Network shared some alarming statistics: Eight percent of mistakes in patient testing processes were related to a failure to inform patients of the results. In addition, 20 to 62 percent of inpatients did not receive the proper follow-up after having abnormal test results.

These problems are often connected to losing continuity when patients leave medical facilities and become outpatients. There are a few other reasons why a doctor might delay a diagnosis:

  • Incompetence
  • Test result misinterpretation
  • Not being familiar with rare conditions
  • Ordering the wrong tests
  • Understaffed medical centers
  • Waiting until certain tests and medical scans are completed

Mistakes Can Be Made at Any Point

The path from a patient exam to an accurate diagnosis typically has several steps – there will be significantly more for those with complicated conditions. They include a clinical evaluation, ordering tests, completing tests, and the physician evaluating the results. Then, the information gets shared with the patient before the next phase begins.

Mistakes can be made at any point, and if the patient does not start the necessary treatment within the proper time frame, the condition could worsen significantly. Learning of obvious mistakes in the pipeline can be heartbreaking when a case is investigated for malpractice. A misdiagnosis, or diagnosing the wrong condition, can be just as dangerous.

What Problems Can Be Caused by a Delayed Diagnosis?

Patients can experience various problems after a delayed diagnosis or other diagnosis errors. They often miss out on the window to receive the most effective treatments. An example would be an undiagnosed cancer that progresses to a higher stage, rendering life-saving treatments ineffective.

Waiting too long can lead to more extensive, painful, and costly treatments. Patients in these situations might also have to deal with more pain and suffering. A misdiagnosis is particularly traumatic when patients undergo unnecessary treatments like surgeries.

Being Your Own Best Advocate

Patients sometimes hesitate to discuss their symptoms with doctors for various reasons. They might be afraid of the outcome, feel embarrassed, or be cautious about taking up too much of the provider’s time. Being your own best advocate can save you pain, suffering, and money – not to mention your life. Always let your physician know if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A new lump anywhere on the body
  • Change in bowel habits, including blood in the stool or urine
  • Chest pressure
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding things
  • Frequent pain
  • Numbness or weakness in the chest, arms, legs, or one side of the body
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexpected weight loss

When Is a Delayed Diagnosis Considered to Be Malpractice?

Medical professionals have a duty of care to patients, including managing proper exams and tests to ensure timely, accurate diagnoses. So, if another provider had been able to diagnose your condition accurately and communicate this to you appropriately, and you failed to do this, your physician may have committed malpractice. Healthcare providers should use the means necessary to reach patients that other reasonably careful healthcare providers would utilize under the same circumstances.

This also means that a doctor would not be liable for a delayed diagnosis if many others would have done the same thing, like waiting for test results that took several days to process. A misdiagnosis for a rare condition might fall under the same parameters because of an increased likelihood of making that error.

A delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis may qualify as medical malpractice when a patient suffers harm and related compensable damages. It must be proven that the damages are directly related to misdiagnosis, which is not always easy. Still, you could have a legitimate malpractice claim based on your medical history, condition, and extent of your financial and non-financial damages.

What Compensation Might I Get for a Delayed Diagnosis?

Although every medical malpractice case differs, the compensation categories fall into four categories. The first is reimbursement for the cost of medical treatment incurred by the incorrect diagnosis. This might include additional and unnecessary surgeries and treatments. Lost wages and income might also apply if you were temporarily or permanently unable to work and earn money. Lost earning potential might also apply if you are disabled.

In complex, successful medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs could also receive compensation for losing quality of life. This might happen when they have significant disabilities and decreased life expectancies, leading to long-term pain and suffering.

A Dayton Medical Malpractice Lawyer at Wright & Schulte LLC Can Offer Legal Representation in Your Delayed Diagnosis Medical Malpractice Claim

If you believe a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis caused significant medical injuries and compensable damages, a skilled Dayton medical malpractice lawyer at Wright & Schulte LLC can help. Call 937-222-7477 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Dayton, Ohio, we serve clients in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Centerville, Toledo, Youngstown, and Miamisburg.