Albuquerque residents should know that medical diagnostic errors affect around 12 million people in the U.S. every year. Some of these errors can lead to serious injury or even death. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine reports, for example, that between 40,000 and 80,000 people die annually as a result of these errors.

The National Academy of Medicine put together a landmark report called Improving Diagnosis in Health Care. This gives a list of all the goals that medical communities should aim for as a way to reduce and prevent diagnostic errors. Among these is the goal to create a safety culture that actively fosters improvement in how doctors diagnose conditions.

There are several obstacles to this. One is individualism: Doctors are tempted to be “heroes” and diagnose conditions without collaboration. Another is cognitive bias that goes unaddressed during the medical training phase. In addition, most medical students are taught to only recognize the general symptoms of a condition but not its lesser-known symptoms.

Technology may help in this regard. Simulations can expose medical students to real-world data from clinical trials. Other goals laid down by the report include the more effective use of health information technology and the making of a reporting and liability system.

Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses can cause patients to suffer from a worsening of their condition. They may even be harmed by taking the wrong drugs or having the wrong surgery done on them. In these situations, victims may be able to pursue a medical malpractice case. If successful, they might be reimbursed for the cost of these harmful treatments as well as for future medical expenses and lost income. Having a lawyer for negotiations may be a good idea.