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What causes diagnostic errors in ER and urgent care?

A trip to the emergency room or an urgent care facility is rarely a good thing. It often means you are suffering from symptoms that are too serious or worrisome to wait until you can get an appointment at your doctor's office. In an ambulatory care center, such as an ER or urgent care, you can expect to explain your symptoms to a nurse, who will pass your chart to a doctor or physician's assistant.

The doctor may examine you and order tests. Based on the results of those tests, you will receive a diagnosis and perhaps a prescription to manage the symptoms. In some cases, you may feel relief. However, you are just as likely to get worse. A recent report shows that almost half of ambulatory care mistakes involve a wrong diagnosis.

The consequences of a wrong diagnosis

If a doctor in a Pennsylvania emergency room or urgent care setting makes a wrong diagnosis, there is a chance that your condition will correct itself, and you will get better anyway. However, what if your pain is from a fast-growing cancer the ER doctor missed? What if the symptoms that seemed like indigestion were really the first signs of a heart attack? Unfortunately, these and other mistakes happen too often.

Mistakes along the way

The latest data compiled by the ECRI Institute says that the most common point of breakdown in diagnosing a patient in an ambulatory setting involves the testing process. Considering the many steps and times the information changes hands, it is not surprising, for example:

  • Taking your history and symptoms
  • Interpreting symptoms and ordering tests
  • Drawing and labeling your blood, or performing ultrasound, X-rays or other scans
  • Processing your samples
  • Reading and interpreting your test results
  • Transmitting the test results to the doctor
  • Reporting the results to you

These steps may take hours or even days and may involve many people, some of whom are not even in the same building. If anyone along the way rushes the process or loses track of your information among the hundreds, perhaps thousands of other patient tests, you may end up with a wrong diagnosis that can leave you at risk for greater suffering and even death.

If you are facing the consequences of a wrong diagnosis in an emergency room or urgent care setting, you have the right to obtain answers to your questions. With the aid of an experienced attorney, you can pursue those answers and perhaps compensation for your suffering and grief.

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John A. Caputo & Associates, P.C.
310 Grant St. Suite 820
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Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-246-9235
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