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Diagnostic errors made in the Emergency Department (ED) can lead to dangerous escalation of a disease, injury, or death.

Emergency medicine is a specialized form of medical care that requires relative speed, thoughtful diagnosis, and appropriate testing in order to move a patient into an appropriate treatment setting or outcome.  For the most seriously ill or injured, identification of a condition in the ED is the gateway to a longer course of treatment.  When errors occur, or a diagnosis is missed, the condition of a patient can quickly deteriorate.

By nature, ED staff triage, assess, diagnose, and treat patients whose disease condition is unknown as they walk through the sliding doors to the facility. Unlike primary care physicians, or specialists, ED physicians and staff do not always have the benefit of a long standing relationship with patients who arrive with an acute physical concern.

Because of a lack of knowledge of the patient, ED providers rely on any existing EMR and report of the health history by the patient. EDs, especially during the COVID pandemic, are often crowded, with patients waiting hours to be seen or for necessary testing to be performed. 

The Joint Commission reports approximately 12 million adults in the US (about one in every 20 patients) suffer a diagnostic error each year.  A recent study from The Doctors Company (TDC), a professional liability insurer, looked at ED medical malpractice claims handled by the insurer between 2014 and 2019.  For TDC, 326 claims were surveyed, with highlighted results that include:

  • Conditions involving neurology or the vascular system represented 31 percent of the claims presented.
  • Considering the overall ED process, the areas where diagnostic errors were most likely to occur was in managing consults with specialists, ordering diagnostic tests, and monitoring the status of the patient.
  • A failure to order diagnostic tests, or a delay in testing, was a common factor contributing to claims.  These failures or delays drove higher medical malpractice payouts and more often involved CT scans.

It is a certainty that patients suffer bad medical outcomes that have nothing to do with the care offered by ED providers.  That said, when an ED patient suffers a diagnostic or other treatment error, the result can be tragic. 

If you are injured due to a negligent standard of care in an ED or other healthcare setting, speak with an attorney from our legal team.

Highly qualified medical malpractice lawyers serving Maryland and Washington, DC

With more than three decades of successful experience recovering compensation for those injured by medical negligence, Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A. protects and pursues your right to compensation. Call 410-234-1000 or contact us to set up a free appointment to discuss your case.