The Goldberg Law Firm Co., LPA

The Goldberg Law Firm Co., LPA

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Ohio Failure to Diagnose Lawyers

Delay or Failure to Make the Right Diagnosis

Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals dedicate their lives to caring for their patients. But providing health care can be complicated. There are often multiple steps involved in a health care visit. A number of different medical staff may be take part in the care of a single patient. And patients may be confused by unfamiliar words and technical language.

Although hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices take many steps to keep their patients safe, medical errors can happen. Often, medical errors (also called adverse events) happen when there is a single misstep in a chain of activities.

Missed or wrong diagnosis makeup the lion’s share of US malpractice lawsuit payouts. These are the most common and most costly of all malpractice claims. Diagnosis-related errors are the leading cause of claims associated with death and disability. Most diagnostic errors occur in the outpatient setting, but those that occur while a person was in the hospital are more likely to be fatal.

Research estimates that the number of misdiagnosis-related claims that cause preventable, permanent damage or death may be as high as 160,000 each year. Errors can happen anywhere along the way. It can be a wrong diagnosis, no diagnosis or delayed diagnosis. If a healthcare provider gets the diagnosis wrong, the chances of getting the therapy right are greatly reduced. Sometimes these mistakes are fatal right off the bat. For example, in one case our firm handled, the patient presented with the worst headache of her life and was told to take ibuprofen. What she really had was a brain aneurysm and patient ended up a paraplegic.

Patients are not powerless

Even great doctors make mistakes. Patients need to be persistent with physicians because so often the doctor will make a diagnosis and over time, it becomes clear that it was wrong. The first attempt may not be accurate. Think of it as a work in progress instead of being written in stone. Ask, “is there anything else this can be?'”. If the doctor says “no” then ask “why?” and an answer such as “because it’s the only thing it could be” is not good enough.

Checklist for Getting the Right Diagnosis

Take an active role in working with your doctor or nurse when you are ill. To help them put all of this information together to find the right diagnosis (health problem), your doctor or nurse will need to:

  • Ask you questions about your current illness and medical history
  • Do a physical exam
  • Order some tests if needed
  • Come up with a list of possible diagnoses that may be causing you to feel ill and narrow it down
  • Recommend treatment for your illness

Ask questions and get involved

1. Tell Your Story Well: Be Clear, Complete, and Accurate when you tell your doctor or nurse about your illness. Take some time to think about when your symptoms started, what made your symptoms better or worse, or if your symptoms were related to taking medications, eating a meal, exercising, or a certain time of day. Try to remember all of the important information about your illness. Write down some notes and bring them with you, a family member may be able to help you with this.

Sometimes a nurse or health technician may ask you questions about your illness before you see the doctor. Make sure your doctor hears the same story.

2. Be A Good Historian:

  • Remember what treatments you have tried in the past and if they helped
  • Think about how your illness has progressed over time
  • Think about your family’s medical history and if you may be at risk to get the same illness

3. Be A Good Record Keeper:

  • Keep your own records of test results, referrals, and hospital admissions
  • Keep an accurate list of your medications
  • Bring your medication list with you when you see your doctor, nurse or pharmacist

Be an Informed Consumer:

  • Learn about your illness by looking on the Internet (www.medlineplus.gov) or visit a local library.
  • Learn about the tests or procedures you are having done.
  • Learn about your medications:
    • Know the name of your medication (both generic and brand names) For Example: Tylenol (brand name) and Acetaminophen (generic name)
    • Know what the medication is for
    • Know the amount (dose) you need to take
    • Know the time you need to take it during the day
    • Know the side effects to watch for and report to your doctor
    • Know if the medication interacts with any food or drugs

5. Take Charge of Managing Your Health:

  • If you have more than one doctor, make sure each doctor knows what the other person is thinking and planning
  • Make sure each doctor knows all of your test results, medications, or other treatments
  • Be informed and involved in decisions about your health

6. Know Your Test Results:

  • Make sure both you and your doctor get the results from any tests that are done
  • Don’t assume that no news is good news, call and check on your test results
  • Ask what the test results mean and what needs to be done next

7. Follow Up:

  • Ask when you need to make another appointment (follow up) with your doctor or nurse once you start treatment
  • Ask what to expect from the treatment or what it will do for you
  • Ask what you need to do if you get new symptoms, or start to feel worse

8. Make Sure It Is The Right Diagnosis:

  • Sometimes your diagnosis is the most “likely” thing that is wrong, but it may not be the “right” thing
  • Don’t be afraid to ask “What else could this be?”
  • Encourage your doctor or nurse to think about other possible reasons for your illness

By following this checklist, you become a partner in finding the right diagnosis for you.