There are multiple kinds of diagnostic errors that a doctor might commit when providing medical care for a patient. Diagnostic failure is among the most common, as countless patients get turned away without testing or treatment because health professionals don’t believe someone’s self-reported symptoms and assume that there is nothing actually wrong with them. Doctors can contribute to someone’s poor prognosis or death by failing to diagnose them.
However, misdiagnosis or a physician reaching the wrong conclusion about the underlying cause of someone’s symptoms can be just as devastating. Every year, there are thousands of cases of misdiagnosis across the United States.
Patients don’t receive timely treatment for their symptoms
If a patient seeks medical care for what seemed to be general symptoms, their doctor could very easily reach the wrong conclusion about the true cause of those symptoms. When a doctor reaches the wrong diagnosis, the true medical issue will go untreated.
Delays in treatment could stretch for months until someone’s condition gets worse and they return to seek more medical support. Especially in cases involving potentially progressive health concerns, like cancer or infections, diagnostic delays can lead to severe consequences. The condition itself and the symptoms it presents may worsen, and the number of treatment options may shrink as the condition progresses.
Patients may undergo unnecessary treatments
The delay in treatment is a consequence that misdiagnosis shares with failed diagnosis. What truly separates these two diagnostic errors is that misdiagnosis often results in someone undergoing treatment for a medical condition that they don’t even have. Whether a doctor recommends a round of antibiotics that someone does not need or more aggressive medical treatment, a patient may have to delay treatments when they receive the right diagnosis because of the unnecessary and inappropriate care they received before the doctor diagnosed them.
Any significant diagnostic error can have dire medical consequences for the patient affected. Seeking legal guidance and ultimately filing a medical malpractice claim may be a smart step for someone whose doctor reached the wrong conclusion about their medical issues and caused them significant harm as a result.