When you do the same job or tasks repeatedly, you can get very good at identifying certain patterns that imply certain scenarios or outcomes, which can make it faster and easier to do your job. That ability is one reason why work experience allows professionals to command more money for their services.

Unfortunately, with medical professionals, applying previous experiences and generalizations to a new patient can result in major diagnostic mistakes. While most human bodies have similar functions and setups, each body is inherently unique. Some people have inverted organs, while others may actually have extra components or unique chemistry that changes the way their body reacts to illnesses and medications alike.

With each patient reporting a specific symptom, a physician should perform a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause of the problem. A physician should never make an assumption about the cause of a symptom, as that could lead to a dangerous missed diagnosis. Physicians should always attempt to rule out any reasonable medical cause for symptoms before reaching a conclusion.

A cough could stem from a viral infection, heart issues or aggressive cancer

Some symptoms occur with so many different conditions that those single symptoms alone won’t allow a physician to reach a diagnostic conclusion. A cough, for example, could stem from common bacterial and viral infections. However, the cough could also be indicative of heart issues or cancerous tissue in the throat or lungs.

Before assuming someone has a cold and prescribing an expectorant, a physician should rule out other causes or conclusively verify the presence of a specific virus or strain of bacteria. Assuming the simplest cause for a symptom could mean substantially delaying the diagnosis and treatment for a more serious condition. The results from that delay could include a worse prognosis for the patient and more expensive or painful treatment options.

Did a failure to diagnose drastically impact your health or finances?

Not receiving an accurate diagnosis can mean paying for medical consultations and treatments that you don’t need. It can also mean that the condition you do have will continue to progress, potentially resulting in greater expenses and difficulty when you do secure the right diagnosis.

If you can show that you went to your physician and reported symptoms that they ignored or made assumptions about and that you later incurred substantial financial expenses as a result, including medical costs and lost wages, you could potentially hold your physician responsible for the impact of their failure to diagnose.

Failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a condition is one of the leading reasons why individuals bring medical malpractice claims against a doctor or a facility. Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include heart issues, cancer and the devastating meningitis infection in children, all conditions that have a worse prognosis associated with delayed diagnosis and treatment.