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How Does Medical Misdiagnosis Happen?

Published: Oct 14, 2022 in Medical Malpractice
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When you are seen by a healthcare provider, you trust them to properly diagnose and treat your medical condition. However, when your healthcare provider misdiagnoses your condition, you could suffer devastating injury or illness.

Common Ways Misdiagnosis Occurs

Misdiagnosis is more common than you might think — and understanding how doctors misdiagnose patients helps you know whether you’ve been a victim of malpractice.

Not Enough Time During Patient Appointments and Visits

When you visit your physician or healthcare provider, your appointment might be faster than you expected. Generally, physicians spend less than 20 minutes with each patient to fit in as many as possible.

However, this is often not enough time to understand the patient’s complete medical history, what symptoms they may be experiencing, and which tests they should undergo to diagnose their condition.

Diagnostic Errors

Diagnostic errors have been known to cause misdiagnosis in several situations. Inexperienced physicians might incorrectly conduct diagnostic testing, or they may be overconfident and forgo ordering a diagnostic test. There also might be a lack of diagnostic testing due to insurance constraints.

No matter the case, if your misdiagnosis stems from a diagnostic error, your physician might be liable for your worsened condition.

Inexperience or Overconfidence

Healthcare providers have been known to misdiagnose and make other medical mistakes when they lack experience or are overconfident in their level of experience.

Unfortunately, inexperienced healthcare providers may not have the training or knowledge needed to understand how to read test results, know when to order specific diagnostic tests, or diagnose a patient based on insufficient evidence to support the diagnosis.

Many physicians ignore a patient’s symptoms when they have already determined their medical condition.

For example, you may see many healthcare providers misdiagnose patients after blaming the symptoms of their condition on being overweight, stressed, or dealing with other lifestyle changes.

Overworked Healthcare Providers

One of the most overworked professions is that of healthcare providers. Healthcare providers are needed around the clock — requiring many physicians, nurses, and other practitioners to work as much as 80 hours per week.

If your healthcare provider makes a diagnosis after incorrectly reading test results or failing to take note of your symptoms due to their fatigue, they could be in breach of their medical duty of care.

Lack of a Single Healthcare Provider

These days, instead of seeing one healthcare provider for all your medical needs, you may be sent to various specialists to treat your condition.

Unfortunately, since there are multiple points of care, various medical caregivers may order diagnostic tests without considering the other providers’ prior testing or diagnosis. This breakdown in communication leaves patients without a sole provider that understands their condition entirely.

Failure to Provide Follow Up Care

Healthcare providers have a duty to provide their patients with follow-up care. Although many patients see several healthcare providers throughout the stages of their diagnosis and treatment, it is up to the healthcare provider to make an attempt to provide follow-up care, wherever possible.

Physicians must check in on the patient’s symptoms, changes to their condition, and otherwise check to ensure the diagnosis and treatment plan is still appropriate. Failure to do so is malpractice and can be grounds for civil and insurance claims.

How Misdiagnosis Can Harm a Patient

Misdiagnosis can have a devastating impact on a patient’s life. When a patient is misdiagnosed, their existing condition could worsen.

Suppose a patient was not taken seriously after expressing concerns regarding a mole, and the patient was later diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized to multiple organs. In that case, the initial physician who misdiagnosed the cancer as a common mole could be held accountable.

Patients who are not appropriately diagnosed can also be given the wrong treatment. Not only will improper treatment fail to help the current condition, but it could make the symptoms worse or cause other adverse effects.

Get Help From a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you believe you are a victim of misdiagnosis but you do not know where to turn for help, reach out to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., our firm is proud to offer no-cost, risk-free consultations to victims of misdiagnosis across Alabama. Complete our online form or call 205-933-1500 to get started.