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Can the differential diagnosis process harm patients?

| Jan 7, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Seeing a doctor can be an overwhelming experience. Often, a patient must fill out many forms just to secure a visit with their regular or primary care physician. A Trenton resident may have to update their contact information, prepare their medical history, and extensively describe the problem for which they have sought immediate treatment.

The information that a patient provides to their doctor through paperwork, diagnostic testing, and questions allows the doctor to work through a system of differential diagnoses to find the true cause of the patient’s ailment. This post will discuss what differential diagnoses are and what can go wrong when doctors do not follow appropriate procedures. No part of this post should be used or read as legal or medical advice.

What is differential diagnosing?

Medical conditions can vary from irritating to life-threatening. However, many that may have vastly different outcomes can start with very similar symptoms. For example, when a patient goes to their doctor with a sore throat, can that doctor immediately tell if it is a cold, strep throat, or cancer?

The differential diagnosis process allows doctors to collect information to rule out causes of ailments and refine diagnoses so patients can receive the best possible care. Though it may take time, a carefully and comprehensively approached differential diagnosis may result in a patient getting the right diagnosis and right treatment to improve their health and life.

What can go wrong during a differential diagnosis?

It is often the case in life and in medicine that the most likely cause for a problem is the most obvious one. However, this adage can get medical professionals into trouble if they do not fully root out the actual causes of their patients’ illnesses and injuries. A doctor who fails to undertake testing or investigate outside causes of a patient’s ailment may miss a significant diagnosis like cancer.

When a doctor or medical provider exercises care in their diagnosing of patient, they do their job appropriately. Rushed or negligent diagnoses lead to worsened medical conditions, pain, suffering, and even death. Victims of differential diagnosis mistakes can seek counsel from medical malpractice attorneys to understand what rights they may have to seek compensation for their losses.