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Misdiagnosis errors common in U.S.

Medical diagnosis errors are alarmingly common in New Jersey and across the United States, according to multiple studies. However, experts say there are several measures health professionals can take to help reduce the risk of misdiagnosis for patients.

Each year, approximately 12 million Americans are affected by misdiagnosis issues nationwide, according to a 2014 report published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety. Of those, around half are estimated to be “potentially harmful.” In addition, a report by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine estimated that between 40,000 and 80,000 U.S. patients die from misdiagnosis complications every year.

Diagnosis errors can impact all aspects of a patient’s care, including the amount of time it takes to get a proper diagnosis, the types of treatments prescribed and his or her overall prognosis. In order to reduce diagnosis errors, the National Academy of Medicine suggests that hospitals foster teamwork between doctors, patients and families as well as improve diagnosis-related medical education and make effective use of health information technology. The organization also urges hospitals to create a culture that fosters diagnostic improvements, allows doctors to learn from their mistakes, establishes a reporting and liability system and offers funding for diagnostic research. Together, these actions could significantly drive down the number of misdiagnosis incidents that take place throughout the country.

Patients who suffer harm due to misdiagnosis or other types of medical errors might be owed compensation for their losses. A medical malpractice attorney may assess a patient’s case and determine if a doctor or hospital failed to provide the standard of care. If such a failure can be proven in civil court, it might lead to a financial settlement that reimburses a patient for his or her medical bills, rehab costs, lost income, pain and suffering, mental anguish and more.