When there is a misdiagnosis of many medical conditions, those conditions become more dangerous with a worse prognosis. For a medical malpractice attorney in Ohio, misdiagnosis cases require a thorough interview of the potential client and a careful review of all available medical records. Further, the lawyer must avail himself/herself of current medical concepts to know whether an early, accurate diagnosis would have likely made a difference in the outcome. According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Internal Medicine (JAMA Internal Medicine), there are some common attributes of misdiagnosis in the setting of primary care.
“Primary care” refers to general outpatient medical practices for patients with general health concerns or needing preventative care. Usually, primary care is provided by a generalist, like an internist (i.e., a specialist in internal medicine), pediatrician, gerontologist, or family practice physician. However, numerous other specialists provide primary care services, particularly those who initially trained in internal medicine then subspecialized in a related field such as urology, cardiology, nephrology, gastroenterology, etc. In recent years, nurse practitioners increasingly provide primary care services.
The primary care provider is a key figure in modern healthcare. He/she is often the first to diagnose a patient, orders key tests, seeks consultations with appropriate specialists, and coordinates the patient’s overall care. A primary care provider’s misdiagnosis will tend to come earlier in the course of treatment and may have a critical impact on outcome.
The JAMA Internal Medicine article found that the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions were pneumonia, congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney failure, cancer and urinary tract infection. Common errors included poor history-taking or inadequate physical exam by the doctor, failure to document a differential diagnosis, and failure to review existing medical records.
Medical malpractice lawsuits arising out of a missed diagnosis are particularly tricky to prove because the very thing that led to the misdiagnosis — underassessment by the doctor — also results in a lack of documentation to prove the underassessment. We strive to fill in the blanks left by careless physicians by looking at records from other physicians, the natural history of the disease, and the patient’s own recollection, among other things.