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'Misdiagnosis' Leading Cause of U.S. Malpractice Payouts: Study
Date:4/23/2013

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Missed or wrong diagnoses made up the lion's share of U.S. malpractice payouts -- which totaled nearly $39 billion -- during the past 25 years, finds a new study of more than 350,000 claims.

"These are the most common and the most costly of all malpractice claims," said study author Dr. David Newman-Toker, an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore. "We have to pay attention to this because it is too big of a problem to ignore."

In the new study, researchers analyzed diagnosis-related claims from a national data bank from 1986 to 2010. Of all the claims, diagnostic errors led the pack, accounting for about 35 percent of the total payments of $38.8 billion (after adjusting for inflation). The study only reviewed claims that involved a malpractice payout, not those that did not get this far in the process.

Diagnosis-related errors were the leading cause of claims that were associated with death and disability. Most diagnostic errors occurred in outpatients, but those that occurred while a person was in the hospital were more likely to be fatal, the study showed.

The researchers estimated that the number of misdiagnosis-related claims that cause preventable, permanent damage or death may be as high as 160,000 each year.

The new finding appeared online April 22 in BMJ Quality & Safety.

"We really have to make it a priority to measure and track diagnostic errors on an ongoing basis as we do other mistakes such as infection and wrong-site surgery," Newman-Toker said. "They are completely underrepresented in terms of what we pay attention to."

Errors can happen anywhere along the way. "It can be wrong diagnosis, no diagnosis or delayed diagnosis," he said. "If you get the diagnosis wrong, the chances of getting the therapy right are greatly reduced."'/>"/>

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