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Is the standard too low for diagnostics in medicine?

When our back aches, our knee gives out or we experience excruciating pain in our body, we expect a medical professional to help us find the problem. One tool often used to help solve this puzzle is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The use of this tool is seen by many as a service that the patient can choose at any facility. A patient may take price and convenience of location into account when deciding where to get his or her MRI completed.

Unfortunately, according to a recent study in the publication The Spine Journal, not all facilities or radiologists who read these studies are the same. As such, the error rate for diagnosing medical issues using MRIs is "considerably higher" than previously thought.

How high is the error rate for medical diagnostics? The publication reviews a study that was conducted by the Hospital for Special Surgery. The study involved one participant, a 63 year-old woman, who was sent to 10 different imaging centers stating she had low back pain.

These visits resulted in 49 distinct findings. The authors' note that these findings translate to what is referred to in the medical profession as "poor overall agreement on interpretive findings" - which is basically a fancy way to say none of the findings matched up even though they were all based on the same patient and the same supposed injury.

What is the impact of these results? Having different findings from different doctors can lead to issues for the patient. Not one of the 49 reported findings included a diagnosis and, as noted by one of the authors of the study, the "variability in the quality of MRI interpretation could yield profoundly different treatment recommendations for the very same patient."

What can be done to fix this problem? The piece concludes with a call for change. One option proposed in the publication involves adjusting the standards for diagnostic quality in this field of medicine. This could lead to a change in the standard of care used in radiology.

What does this mean for victims of medical malpractice? Those who believe they received poor care that contributed to further injuries or medical issues may find relief through a medical malpractice suit.

This type of lawsuit is designed to meet three main goals:

  • Monetary award. If successful, the suit will result in a monetary award to the victim. This can help cover the cost of medical bills, missed work and other expenses connected to the injury.
  • Accountability. A medical malpractice lawsuit also holds the medical professional or hospital responsible for the mistake or negligent action that led to the injury.
  • Deter similar behavior. These cases also serve to deter other medical professionals from conducting the same type of negligent or reckless actions with other patients.

This type of suit involves a number of steps, one of which requires establishing that the physician failed to meet the accepted standard of care. If the authors of this study find success, the standard of care used in these types of cases could change.

This highlights the evolving nature of the law and the need for an attorney for those who are injured. If you have suffered from a serious injury due to poor medical care, an attorney can help you build a case using the most current law, better ensuring your interests are protected.

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