What you should know about misdiagnosis and Texas medical malpractice

One of the most common reasons people call Painter Law Firm is because they’ve been misdiagnosed by a physician. According to a report from the National Academy of Medicine, most people will experience at least one diagnostic error during their lifetime.

In my experience, problems with a diagnosis come up in one of two ways.

First, I have handled numerous medical malpractice lawsuits where a physician flat-out made the wrong diagnosis. Two cases immediately come to mind. In one, a doctor at a major hospital in Houston’s Texas Medical Center mistook a patient’s stroke for a psychogenic disorder—that’s basically a mental condition related to anxiety. In another case, a patient had a damaged cerebral artery that was in the process of causing a stroke, but an emergency physician at a suburban Houston hospital discharged him with the incorrect diagnosis of migraine headache and hypertension.

When a doctor makes the wrong diagnosis, it follows that the wrong treatment is implemented. Depending on the circumstances, this can place the patient at risk of the condition getting worse or even death.

The second type of diagnostic error involves a delayed diagnosis. In these situations, the physician eventually arrived at the correct diagnosis, but there’s a significant delay in getting there. This, in turn, causes a delay in treatment—administration of a medication, lab work, therapy, or even surgery is not done in a timely manner and can impact the patient’s health or even cause death.

The Joint Commission, an accrediting agency for hospitals, studied the issues of delays in treatment and made several recommendations on how to avoid them. It’s interesting to me that the very first item on the list was avoiding cognitive shortcuts.

I’ve long thought that one of the most common reasons doctors make diagnostic mistakes is they take mental shortcuts and skip steps in the diagnostic process. I’ve frequently seen cases where doctors ignore or overlook clear signs and symptoms of infection, allowing patients to develop sepsis, go into septic shock, and die from a condition that could have been easily treated if it had been timely identified.

The Joint Commission also recommended better technology to ensure accurate and timely communication of patient information, as well as making problem lists and documenting diagnostic checklists in the medical records.

This reminds me of a math teacher’s requirement that a student show her work in solving a problem. This helps students avoid mistakes by going through the steps necessary to solve the problem. It’s a great idea for physicians to do the same. Quite often, busy healthcare providers jump to a conclusion and, in the process, miss clinical information and data that point in another direction.

If you’ve been seriously injured as a result of a misdiagnosis or delayed treatment, a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney can help you evaluate your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.