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Misdiagnosis the leading cause of serious medical mistakes

One in every three medical malpractice cases that result in permanent disability or death in Oklahoma and elsewhere is caused by misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, according to a new study published in the journal Diagnosis. That means inaccurate diagnosis is a leading cause of serious medical mistakes.

For the study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine analyzed over 55,000 malpractice claims listed in the Comparative Benchmarking System database. They found that 74.1% of the most harmful diagnostic errors were linked to just three medical categories. These categories, called "The Big Three" by the study's authors, were cancer, vascular events and infection, which were responsible for 37.8%, 22.8% and 13.5% of all serious diagnostic errors, respectively. The study also found that the top five diseases under each medical category accounted for 63.5% of serious misdiagnosis cases in The Big Three and 47.1% of serious misdiagnosis cases overall. The study further found that just over 71% of all diagnostic mistakes took place in ambulatory settings, such as emergency departments and outpatient clinics.

Experts estimate that around 12 million U.S. patients suffer some sort of diagnostic mistake each year. Of those patients, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 die as a result of the mistake. According to the authors of the study, diagnosis errors are a system-wide problem and need to be approached as such. They also said that medical professionals need to target the specific practice settings where most errors occur when coming up with solutions.

Oklahoma patients who suffer harm from a misdiagnosis might want to pursue legal action against the doctor responsible for the error. An attorney familiar with medical negligence claims may evaluate the case and help prepare a medical malpractice lawsuit seeking damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and more.

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