Study: Mistakes in basic medical office tasks can lead to misdiagnoses

According to a study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, many of the medical misdiagnoses that occur in primary healthcare facilities may simply be related to the interactions between hospital staff and patients during the office visit itself – such as mistakes made while taking medical histories.

Given the high percentage of medical misdiagnoses linked to these basic office visit tasks, it is more important than ever for hospital staff to focus on getting these otherwise straightforward responsibilities correct from the start.

Misdiagnosis study

Researchers involved the study reviewed the records over 200,000 patient visits at five different healthcare facilities over a one-year period. Specifically, researchers combed the records looking for instances in which a patient experienced an unplanned hospitalization or other emergency medical situation within two weeks of a primary care visit. Researchers then reviewed the records to determine if the medical professionals involved could have diagnosed the subsequent medical condition with the information they had at the time of the original primary visit.

Interestingly, researchers discovered that of the misdiagnoses identified, roughly 80 percent could partially be attributed to the patient visit itself – for instance, physical exam errors or problems with recording the medical histories of patients. Of the reasons posited by researchers for primary care misdiagnoses, the top five included, in no particular order:

  • Issues related to errors in medical histories
  • Issues related to errors in performance of physical examinations
  • Issues related to ordering further diagnostic tests
  • Issues related to the failure to examine prior documentation
  • Issues related to the failure to contact the appropriate expert

Issue associated with medical misdiagnoses

It is not hard to imagine how a misdiagnosis can lead to an already serious medical condition becoming even more dire; as in the case of a cancer misdiagnosis when the failure to indentify the condition can result in the cancer spreading or otherwise worsening over time. But in some instances, when every moment counts – such as when dealing with heart attacks or pulmonary embolisms – a misdiagnosis that leads to a delay in treatment can literally be the difference between life and death in only a matter of hours.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of a medical misdiagnosis, it is often of vital importance to contact an experienced misdiagnosis attorney to ensure your rights are protected. A knowledgeable attorney can help determine if you may be entitled to damages for unnecessary medical expenses or other costs.