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Most malpractice claims are diagnosis-related, studies find

Misdiagnosis is often to blame for hospital patient deaths in Georgia. The National Academy of Medicine concluded back in 2015 that diagnostic errors may be the third leading cause of death among hospitalized patients and may be behind the majority of paid medical malpractice claims. This has recently been backed up by the separate reports of two malpractice insurers.

The first is from Coverys, an insurer based in Boston, and covers 1,800 closed claims against physicians from 2013 to 2017. Of these, 46 percent were diagnosis-related. Forty-five percent of the patients in these cases died. Diagnosis-related claims accounted for 68 percent of the indemnity costs that were paid out.

Coverys found that the top allegation against primary care providers was that of performing an inadequate medical assessment. This includes not capturing a complete family history and not performing a complete physical exam. This is a dangerous trend because primary care providers do more than assess patients: They are responsible for selecting the appropriate treatments and monitoring any high-risk medications that their patients take.

The second study, from The Doctors Company, found that misdiagnosis was behind 38 percent of claims against physicians who treated a child. The carrier analyzed 1,215 claims closed between 2008 and 2017. Parents should have symptoms explained in detail to prompt immediate care when children are sent home.

When misdiagnoses are the result of doctor negligence, victims or their families may want to consult with a medical malpractice attorney. In this state, plaintiffs must file a malpractice claim within two years of the injury or death that arose from the act of negligence. Many malpractice claims end in some of the largest settlements in the field of personal injury, so it may be a good idea to leave all negotiating or speaking in court to the attorney.