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Outpatient care under scrutiny for misdiagnosis

As many Illinois residents may know, hospital safety has come under scrutiny in the past, and now outpatient dynamics are being examined. As patients move between primary caregivers and hospitals or specialty care, information may be lost or not shared between the health care providers.

According to the British Medical Journal, outpatient misdiagnoses involves patients treated without hospitalization who are not given timely, correct assessments based on available information. This affects an estimated 12 million adults per year in the U.S.

Three studies that looked at misdiagnoses in primary care settings as well as with lung and colon cancer patients were retroactively analyzed. The goal was to find out how often patient misdiagnoses were due to physicians not picking up on what should have been classic red flags or whether follow-ups were inconsistent or lacking. Harmful misdiagnoses generally account for half of all misdiagnoses, and the consequences range from minor to severe.

Many problems were found in patients' assessment phases wherein missing information could alter their diagnoses. It is important for doctors to have a complete picture of patients' past and present medical statuses. Patient involvement in the process should also be encouraged by physicians.

A misdiagnosis may result in a lack of care for a treatable condition. Without proper intervention, a patient's medical condition may progress and result in physical harm or death. The family of someone who died as a result of a physician's mistaken diagnosis may suffer significant financial loss. If the family wishes to file a wrongful death claim based on medical malpractice, an attorney could help them complete the paperwork properly and file it in a civil court.

Source: FOX News, "At least 1 in 20 outpatients misdiagnosed every year, study shows", Amanda Woerner, April 17, 2014

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