Errors in imaging reports can lead to serious patient harm

Mistakes can sometimes be addressed and then never thought of again. These are usually the minor ones like not putting the milk back in the refrigerator or forgetting to stop by a store on the way home. Unfortunately, not all errors are small mistakes. When it comes to someone's health care, errors, even when they are referred to as mistakes, can be fatal.

Doctors count on imaging studies to reveal details about a patient's condition. While they can review the diagnostic images themselves, they count on the radiologist's report. Any misstatements can cause the doctor to make incorrect treatment plans for a patient.

Diagnostic problems

When a doctor orders an imaging scan, they have probably already done some other diagnostic work. This may include speaking to the patient and doing an exam. It might also involve having blood testing done. All of this information is put together to diagnose the problem and to determine a treatment program. If any one of these components is off, the entire diagnosis and treatment plan can be incorrect.

Diagnostic problems can lead to a patient's condition being left to worsen since it isn't being treated appropriately. This is especially problematic if the issue is something like cancer, a stroke or a heart attack. All of these have the possibility of turning fatal without proper care.

Impact on the patient

The patient may have to deal with more pain and invasive procedures that wouldn't have been necessary if the diagnosis was correct. An error could also prove fatal. They might have to miss work, stay in the hospital, suffer through negative life impacts and deal with financial difficulties. Their family members and friends will have to watch them go through it all and try to help out as best as they can.

While it is possible that the errors will be deemed mistakes by medical staff members, there is no excuse for them. Radiologists shouldn't rush through reading images, which could mean that there needs to be more staff to handle the numbers coming through. A system of checks and balances should also be in place to prevent erroneous information from reaching the doctor caring for the patient.

A patient who is the victim of an imaging reading or report error might opt to seek compensation for the damages. They can name any liable party as a defendant, which should serve as incentive for Michigan radiologists to take the time to evaluate images correctly.

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