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The vital role communication plays in medical diagnosis

The National Academy of Medicine reported that diagnostic errors often result in devastating consequences for patients. In fact, an error in diagnosis reportedly is a factor in 10 percent of patient deaths. Hundreds of thousands of individuals every year face tragic consequences because of some caregiver's failure to timely diagnose their medical condition. And ultimately, allegations of failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis are at the center of a large number of medical malpractice cases.

One radiology department chair, serving on the committee publishing the National Academy of Medicine report, stated that poor communication is "the greatest stumbling block" among healthcare providers. She further added that effective communication involved more than just the medical staff: it also meant clearly communicating with patients and their family members.

While medical science today has at its disposal more diagnostic tools than it ever has before, the sharing of such knowledge between every member of the medical team is vital. This also requires that "every single member of the team be excellent and knowledgeable." The diagnosis of physicians and radiologists will obviously influence the formulation of treatment plans and the course of future treatment a patient will pursue.

There will continue to be advances in medical technology, but expensive oncologic imaging will serve little purpose if, for whatever reason, there is a failure to communicate results to the treating medical staff and to the patient. At Barry D. Lang, M.D., & Associates, we have represented a large number of patients suffering from a cancer that never would have spread if a proper diagnosis would have resulted in timely treatment.

Sadly, the failure to diagnose a condition generally leads to the worsening of a condition - sometimes to the point where medical treatment is no longer possible. In the case of cancer, such a worsening may result in the death of the patient. On the other hand, when the cancer or other medical condition receives timely treatment, the patient can then often return to a healthy and normal life. It's for this reason that we have to hold medical providers to an extremely high standard for diagnostic errors.

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