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Study finds diagnostic errors leading cause of malpractice claims

Oregon patients may be interested to learn of a recent study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The study discovered surprising information concerning the leading type of errors that give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits. The findings of the study published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety show that diagnostic errors were more likely to cause patient harm, and resulted in a higher number of claims and payouts when compared to surgical or medication mistakes.

The study looked at 350,706 malpractice claims filed in the United States over the past 25 years. The data came from the National Practitioner Data Bank. Researchers found that out of paid medical malpractice claims, nearly 29% were based on diagnostic errors. Diagnostic errors refer to a failure to diagnose or a delay in diagnosis by a negligent physician. A higher number of fatalities and other serious patient injuries were related to these types of errors as compared to other medical mistakes.

A statement issued by a study researcher stated that there has been both a lack of appreciation and recognition of diagnostic errors. The reason has to do with the difficulty in measuring harm caused by the failure to diagnose medical conditions. Measurements of patient harm are made difficult due to the range of time from when the error occurs and when it is eventually detected.

The findings of the study have shed new light on the notion that most malpractice claims are caused by surgical errors or medication mistakes. In fact, it was determined by researchers that as many as 80,000 to 160,000 people in America have been killed or injured due to diagnostic errors.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Diagnostic errors more common in medical malpractice claims that surgical, medication errors: study," April 24, 2013

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