What's the difference between Ebola and sinusitis? Sounds like a really bad, tasteless joke, right? Unfortunately, it is apparently a question that some doctors should ask themselves.
According to a recent study released by the Institute of Medicine, this question represents one of the most heinous examples of what is characterized as a "blind spot" in modern medicine. During the deadly Ebola outbreak in 2014, a Liberian man visited an emergency room in Texas, was diagnosed with sinusitis and sent home. Two days later, he returned to the same hospital, even sicker, and eventually died there. The second diagnosis: Ebola.
The study says that most people will experience a wrong or delayed diagnosis at least once in their lives. In many cases, most people may suffer needlessly or even die because a doctor or other medical professional made the decision to treat them for the wrong illness. According to the study, diagnostic errors are almost twice as likely as other types of medical malpractice claims to have fatal consequences.
Some reasons involve the personal interaction between the doctor and the patient. Many of us have probably left a doctor's office feeling that we were rushed through an examination or became confused while trying to communicate our symptoms and left even more confused by the diagnosis and prescribed treatment. Rushed or unclear communications are often at the heart of a misdiagnosis.
Other reasons include test results that are misread at some point during the chain of diagnosis, whether by the lab technician that draws the blood, the lab that reads the results or through the delivery or communication of the results to the doctor. Maybe those results or other medical records aren't properly accessed through shared databases. Or maybe the doctor just returned from a conference where the focus was on a certain condition and that recent knowledge clouds the ability to look at other options.
Regardless of the reasons, the failure to diagnose a patient in time to provide proper treatment can have serious or deadly consequences. If you believe that you have been the victim of an incorrect diagnosis, first make sure that you have contacted a medical professional for a second opinion to mitigate any long-term effects that the error could cause. Then, contact a medical malpractice attorney to determine whether you should receive any compensation for any ill effects that have resulted from a doctor's mistake.
Source: Connecticut Post, "Study: Diagnosis wrong too often, urgent improvement needed," Lauran Neergaard, Sept. 24, 2015