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Addressing diagnostic errors in health care

It is fair to say that when a patient goes to the doctor for help with a medical condition, he or she is relying upon that medical professional to provide a certain level of care. Unfortunately this is sometimes more easily said than done and as a result of medical negligence, a patient could find that he or she is more seriously hurt.

Medical negligence can take multiple forms including the failure to accurately diagnose a medical condition. This is true regardless of where one lives. There are multiple reasons that mistakes in this area occur, including issues with sharing electronic health records, misread or misplaced lab tests or X-rays, communication with patients that is unclear and visits that are rushed.

Recently, a study conducted in America determined that diagnostic errors are not receiving enough attention. While the study was conducted in another country, there is no reason to think that the findings are not applicable in Canada as well.

The doctor who chaired the committee responsible for the report indicated that teamwork is the key to improving diagnostic errors. The team should include not only nurses, doctors and lab workers, but patients too. Patients should be empowered to ask questions including what else a condition might be.

In addition, there should be an open dialogue between all health care providers responsible for the treatment of an individual. Communicating with previous providers about a new diagnosis is a good learning opportunity.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding a medical misdiagnosis, it is possible a medical malpractice lawsuit could be filed. In those situations the sooner an injured patient speaks with a lawyer about his or her case, the better.

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