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Communication breakdown leading cause of diagnostic errors

Diagnostic errors such as misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose an illness can be incredibly dangerous to a patient's health, especially if the patient is suffering from a chronic disease like cancer. Chronic disease is defined as a condition of long duration and slow progression that can be controlled but not necessarily cured. Cancers, like many chronic diseases, are most treatable if they are detected and treated early.

As many Maryland residents who have lost a loved one to a chronic disease know, the failure to diagnose a chronic disease can be a death sentence. And, while not every diagnostic error is the result of medical malpractice, many are. In fact, studies have shown that breakdowns in communication between patients and doctors and among health care professionals are the leading cause of preventable diagnostic errors.

In an attempt to eliminate such preventable mistakes, some medical schools are beginning to emphasize bedside manner and physician communication within their medical school curriculum. While this may seem more customer service than medical care, the two are one and the same. In fact, it has been shown that effective communication is key to timely and accurate diagnosis and reducing medical malpractice claims.

Diagnostic errors are the leading cause of medical malpractice claims in the U.S., while chronic diseases like cancer are among the nation's leading causes of death and disability. If a patient's condition worsens due to a breakdown in communication or a physician's failure to diagnose their condition it is important to speak with an attorney. Preventable, life-threatening medical mistakes are simply unacceptable mistakes.

Source: ABC30, "New physicians get taught bedside manners," Margot Kim, June 28, 2013

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