Medical error comes in a variety of flavors, with respect to both the type and severity of the injuries. Physicians are aware, or at least should be, though, that there are certain types of errors that occur more frequently than others. The types of claims that most commonly occur depends, to a large extent, on the type of practice in which a physician is engaged.
Primary care physicians, for instance, are doctors who serve as the first point of contact patient have with the health care system. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, primary care practitioners have the tasks of “health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in a variety of settings.” Given this range of practice objectives, there are naturally going to be unique risks that accompany this type of practice.
According to the recently released Medical Malpractice Report 2015: Why Most Doctors Get Sued, the most common areas in which primary care physicians are sued are: failure to treat; failure to administer medication correctly; failure to correctly document patient instructions and education; failure to follow safety procedures; and failure to properly obtain informed consent. Failure to diagnose is the most common among these claims.
Failure to diagnose a disease or condition being such a common claim in the world of medical malpractice, it should come as no surprise that many physicians are quite liberal with their use of diagnostic testing. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. What is needed is for physicians to rely on their expertise to make reasonable and appropriate decisions with respect to diagnosis.
In our next post, we’ll pick up on the topic of failure to diagnose and some things plaintiffs should keep in mind when pursuing a medical malpractice claim on this basis.