Last week, we wrote about the importance of a fast and accurate diagnosis in cases where a condition is potentially life-threatening. As just one example, heart disease/heart attacks are commonly either misdiagnosed by physicians or not diagnosed at all. It goes without saying that the results can be devastating. Who is responsible for making an accurate diagnosis of heart disease and communicating it clearly to the patient? The specific medical professional can vary, but in many cases the responsibility lies with a person’s primary care physician. According to a recent study, PCPs are the most commonly sued medical professionals when heart disease in female patients goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed. The study, containing data from 41 medical malpractice claims, was conducted by an insurance company specializing in medical liability. All claims involved female patients and alleged deaths/injuries from cardiac disease. An analysis of the group of claims revealed which types of medical professionals were named as defendants and how often. According to the study:

  • Primary care physicians were sued 50 percent of the time
  • Cardiologists were sued 22 percent of the time
  • Emergency physicians were sued 17 percent of the time
  • Orthopedists were sued 6 percent of the time
  • Hospitalists were sued 6 percent of the time

The fact that PCPs were named as defendants most often will probably not come as a surprise. A patient’s primary care physician is often the first and sometimes only medical professional they will see. If they do not diagnose or suspect heart disease, chances are that they will not refer the patient to another specialist or conduct further testing. It should also come as no surprise that of the 41 malpractice claims, patients experienced outcomes that were either fatal or otherwise serious in 80 percent of cases. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as the result of misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or a failure to diagnose a serious medical condition like heart disease, medical negligence may have been a factor. In order to understand your legal rights and options, please share your concerns with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Source: Family Practice News, “Who gets sued when heart disease is missed?” Alicia Gallegos, Feb. 1, 2014