Missed Diagnosis Lawsuit and the Dynamics of Age Related to Risk
Years ago I had the opportunity to care for Mr Smith, a 101 year old man who presented to the hospital with chest pain and shortness of breath. Besides having 101 year old heart and lungs that tend to follow their own biological clock, this man also had a massive chest tumor filling 85% of one side of his thorax.
Whoah really? What does that mean in a 101 year old man? Most folks this age have exceeded the normal bell curve distribution of life and disease. When you reach 101 years old, there isn’t a lot of chronic anything you can catch with the expected time you have left on earth.
Every now and then, however, we find patients who are the exception to the rule, such as the 101 year old guy that present with a new cancer diagnosis. That’s where being an internist comes in handy. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*
Bongi is an amazing writer, and if you haven’t, I strongly urge you to read his latest post, titled “The Graveyard.”
I imagine that a huge number of doctors know exactly what he means. I remember being told by a surgeon, while I was in medical school, that “you’re not a real doctor until you’ve killed someone.” I thought at the time (and still think) that there was a puerile bravado behind that admonition, but there is also a grain of truth. I have my own graveyard. Curiously, not all of its inhabitants are dead. They are the cases where I screwed up, or, charitably, cases that went bad where I feel that maybe I could’ve/should’ve done things differently.
The missed SAH
The missed DVT/PE
The missed AAA
The missed Aortic dissection
The missed MI
I remember them all, clearly and in detail. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*
The medical profession’s ability to diagnose far exceeds its ability to effectively treat the conditions discovered. Consider arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, strokes, emphysema, and many cancers.
When a physician orders a diagnostic test, ideally it should be to answer a specific question, rather than a buckshot approach. A chest X-ray is not ordered because a patient has a cough. It should be done because the test has a reasonable chance of yielding information that would change the physician’s advice. If the doctor was going to prescribe an antibiotic anyway, then why order the chest X-ray?
Physicians and patients should ask before a test is performed if the information is likely to change the medical management. In other words, is a test being ordered because physicians want to know or because we really need to know the results?
Does every patient with a heart murmur, for example, need an echocardiogram, even though this test would be easy to justify to patients and to insurance companies? If the test won’t change anything, then it costs dollars and makes no sense. Spine X-rays for acute back strains are an example of a radiologic reflex. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*
Some put the figure for defensive medicine at 10% of medical expenses a year. That’s $250 billion dollars. Others claim it to be 2-3% per year or about $60 billion dollars a year.
Now ask any physician what it is. I’d say it’s closer to 30% a year. That’s $750 billion dollars a year. Why? Because I know what is going through the minds of physicians when they put the pen to the paper. In America, we strive to exclude the long tail diagnosis. Why? Because getting sued for 67 million dollars because you treated a torn aorta when all the evidence pointed to an emergent MI has a way of making doctors evaluate the possible, instead of focusing on the probable.
Defensive medicine is not about losing a lawsuit. It’s about getting sued and the lack of boundaries that protect a physician from having bad outcomes with competent medicine, even if that competent medicine was the wrong medicine for the wrong patient at the wrong time, a fact known only after the fact when a bad outcome occurs. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at A Happy Hospitalist*