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Diagnostic Errors Widespread in Georgia — But Preventable


A new survey of medical clinicians confirms to Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers that diagnostic errors are widespread and contribute to many preventable patient injuries. According to the study, close to half or 47% of the clinicians who were surveyed admitted that they encountered diagnostic errors in their practice at least every month.

Out of these, 64% of the clinicians said that up to 10% of the diagnostic errors they have made has contributed to some form of patient harm. However, the good news is that more than 90% of the clinicians believe that diagnostic errors are preventable. In Georgia, diagnostic errors frequently result in dental malpractice and medical malpractice.

The most frequent conditions in which there were errors in diagnosis included appendicitis, bipolar disorder, pulmonary embolism and myocardial infection. The most frequent misdiagnosis was for various types of cancers. The highest risks of wrong diagnosis among cancers were for breast cancer, colorectal and lung cancer. The most frequent types of diagnostic errors which lead to dental malpractice claims in Georgia are failure to properly read cone beam CT scans and x-rays which show impingement on the inferior alveolar nerve following the placement of a dental implant or after Root Canal Therapy.

According to the study most diagnostic errors are the result of atypical patient presentation, failure to consider other possible diagnoses, inadequate patient history, and insufficient follow-up of test results. Diagnostic errors may also be the result of over testing, medical school training that does not focus on developing problem-solving skills, poorly constructed information technology systems, and low self-confidence among physicians. Certainly, the least of the two evils is over-testing, as this, while it may be an inconvenience at times,  almost never leads to serious injury, unlike misdiagnosis and mis-reading cone beam CT scans and x-rays.

Preventing diagnostic errors has proven to be a bigger challenge than reducing the incidence of hospital-acquired infections for many hospitals. However, these errors are preventable. Diagnostic errors can be prevented by encouraging doctors to consider other types of diagnosis and use support tools to make a diagnosis. While it takes persistence and dedication, it can, and should be done, in order to protect the millions of innocent Georgians who are at risk of injury related to misdiagnosis every year.

Robert J. Fleming is an Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer, dedicated to the representation of injured victims of medical malpractice across Atlanta and Georgia. He has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously and would like discuss your case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.