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Misdiagnoses and Delayed Treatment in the ER

In the chaos and overcrowding of emergency rooms, errors frequently occur, and the consequences can be devastating. Mistakes in the ER often lead to misdiagnosis or delayed treatment. Patients may be sent home without treatment, only to suffer a harmful medical problem that could even become fatal. ER errors alone account for 37 percent to 55 percent of all medical malpractice suits. In 2009, hospitals spent an estimated $1 billion on ER medical malpractice suits.

ER errors often result in undiagnosed heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms and abdominal infections. In many cases, patients visit the ER with chest pains and suffer a heart attack after being sent home. These missed diagnoses may occur for many reasons. A major problem facing ER doctors is incomplete information. A lack of medical history for a new patient makes diagnosing the patient difficult. Additionally, delays in receiving access to radiology reports can lead doctors to make imprecise diagnosis decisions. Further, if a patient’s vital signs appear to be normal, an ER doctor may wrongly eliminate possible diagnoses. Younger patients are especially often misdiagnosed when they suffer from issues that typically occur in older patients, such as heart attack or stroke.

Another major issue facing ER staff is poor communication. Many errors occur when doctors and nurses fail to communicate, or poorly communicate, important information. Some hospitals have found that the use of electronic medical records has actually negatively affected communication, as doctors and nurses fail to deliver information verbally. If a nurse fails to check a patient’s electronic record, the nurse may wrongly proceed without instruction from a doctor who has entered new information in the patient’s record. Many hospitals are working to improve doctor-nurse communication through timeouts or huddles conducted prior to treatment.

If you suffered a medical problem after receiving improper treatment at an emergency room, an experienced medical malpractice attorney at The McClelland Law Group can protect your right to compensation.

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