A certain number of errors in the field of medicine are to be expected, as doctors are only human, and to err is to be human. However, when it comes to medical diagnoses in particular, recent reports indicate that we have a long way to go when it comes to addressing the urgent need to improve diagnosis, as recently highlighted by U.S. News & World Report.

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, diagnostic error can be defined as the failure to establish an accurate and timely explanation of the problem or communicate this information to the patient. This report shocked many, as it indicated that most everyone will experience at least one diagnostic error–sometimes with devastating consequences–in their lifetime.  In fact, diagnostic errors contribute to around 10 percent of all patient deaths.

Origin of Errors

One of the common issues associated with medical errors may be that many doctors are jumping to conclusions before reviewing (or even hearing) all of the relevant evidence. Other issues can be linked to two doctors not communicating with each other or sharing information, test results getting lost, etc. A misdiagnosis can be the result of missing one key statement that a patient makes, such as an area that they just traveled to.

And what’s even more worrisome is that diagnostic errors themselves often fall through the cracks, never being identified or documented so that they aren’t made a second time. And this isn’t always due to doctors and nurses simply running around to quickly; sometimes it is simply because not enough experience has been had with a particular illness.

Some of the most commonly missed conditions are: heart failure, cancer, pneumonia, and infections, and the biggest opportunity for error is the initial interaction between the physician and patient (such as an incomplete medical exam, for example). Other cases sometimes go wrong due to incorrect test interpretations or a doctor failing to refer a patient to a specialist.


Diagnostic errors have likely gone long periods of time without being addressed because they weren’t identified as being a serious problem in comparison to the more obvious safety issues. While many worry that the switch to electronic medical records might just make the problem even worse, others point out that health IT could improve initial diagnoses because computers sometimes have the ability to pick up on trends over the long periods of time; trends that doctors may miss.

Medical Error Attorneys

Doctors, nurses, and others—especially those who work in emergency rooms–are moving quickly and sometimes this leads to staff neglecting to diagnose illnesses, which leads to more complications. As a result, sometimes a simple injury can turn into something more severe or even result in wrongful death.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as the result of medical malpractice or negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At Dana & Dana, our interest is fighting for victims of serious injuries or wrongful death. We have a history of helping victims of medical malpractice in RI and other acts of medical negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation.