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Study analyzes how physician behaviors factor into misdiagnoses

Every year in the U.S., an estimated 12 million adult outpatients are the victims of diagnostic errors. A study published by Health Affairs has explored the patient-physician interactions that might contribute to these errors. It should be of interest to Illinois residents who have been the victims of medical malpractice.

The study, conducted by the Baylor College of Medicine, analyzed reports of diagnostic errors from 465 patients or family members. These were collected by the nonprofit Empowered Patient Coalition between January 2010 and February 2016. Researchers focused on 184 cases that came with written narratives; of these, 75 percent included a discussion of how the clinician's behavior might have led to the error.

Researchers found four ways in which clinicians were neglecting to provide patient-centered care. First was when clinicians would dismiss or downplay certain symptoms that their patients brought up. Some clinicians, according to the reports, were disrespectful, either belittling or stereotyping their patients. Several were cases of manipulation or deception where clinicians would use fear to push unnecessary procedures.

Many cases involved a failure in communication with some clinicians even refusing to speak with patients. Researchers encourage patients to always speak up when they feel something is wrong. They say health systems should also identify patterns in patient data that reflect a need for interventions.

Victims of medical negligence may be eligible for compensation. A malpractice lawyer might request an inquiry with the local medical board and hire third-party medical experts to conduct their own investigation. Once it is shown that the physician failed to live up to an objective standard of care, the lawyer may proceed to negotiations for a settlement. If one cannot be achieved, the lawyer may prepare the case for a trial.

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