Any medical error is serious due to the potential consequences to the health and welfare of the patient. However, medical data reveals there are medical errors that are the most common and may lead to medical malpractice claims. These five are: misdiagnosis, surgical errors, failure to treat, birth injuries, and prescription drug errors.
All of these medical errors are preventable and the culprit is usually human error or a flaw in the system such as with prescription drug errors.
Perhaps the most common is the misdiagnosis of an illness which is closely related to a failure to treat. Misdiagnosis often occurs when the treating physician or physicians are not thorough in exploring the realm of possibilities prior to setting out on a course of therapy.
Diagnostic error is one of the most important safety problems in health care today, and inflicts the most harm. Major diagnostic errors are found in 10% to 20% of autopsies, suggesting that 40,000 to 80,000 patients die annually in the U.S. from diagnostic errors.
Patient surveys confirm that at least one person in three has firsthand experience with a diagnostic error, and researchers have found that diagnostic errors—not surgical mistakes, or medication overdoses—account for the largest fraction of malpractice claims, the most severe patient harm, and the highest total of penalty payouts.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine defined diagnostic error as the failure to (a) establish an accurate and timely explanation of the patient’s health problem(s) or (b) communicate that explanation to the patient.
Simply put, these are diagnoses that are delayed, wrong, or missed altogether.
In future blog posts, I will cover the other most common medical errors that often lead to medical malpractice claims.