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Failure to Diagnose Illnesses Major Cause of Negligence Claims

Medical staff’s failure to diagnose illnesses and injuries account for large proportion of emergency room negligence claims in recent years.

Recently, the State Claims Agency released its review of “National Clinical Incidents, Claims and Costs”. This analysed the nature of claims made during the period between 2010 and 2014. The nature of such clinical claims is categorised into medical, surgical, maternity, disability or elderly care. The publication examined the motivating factors for claims made in the aforementioned categories.

A sub-category has been created to account in the broad medical negligence section for clinical incidents in hospital emergency rooms and the claims that result when an adverse outcome has occurred. More than 60% of emergency room negligence claims were due to the failure to diagnose an illness or injury and delayed diagnoses in the emergency room.

The next most abundant type of claim was the failure to treat or a delay in treatment, but there were only a quarter of the number of these compared to claims for a failure or delay in diagnosing an injury or illness. Other common reasons for emergency room negligence claims included foreign objects left inside a patient, soft tissue damage during the administration of treatment and avoidable reactions to known allergens.

Some common reasons for such diagnostic failures were the failure to perform a radiograph (or interpret the results correctly) in the case of a fracture, and incomplete medical examinations in other illness and injury scenarios. Other areas of concern included incomplete patient note taking and a lack of communication. These both contributed to a great deal of the number of emergency room negligence claims.

According to the review´s lead author Dr Dubhfeasa Slattery, the primary goal of the published review is to improve patient safety by analysing the most common areas of failure and implementing measures to improve patient care.  Dr Slattery described the process as a “learning health system”, and it is hoped that this has a positive effect in relation to the treatment received in hospital emergency rooms and leads to a reduction in emergency room negligence claims.

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