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When you seek medical care for a suspected problem, you place your trust in the training and skill of professionals who have dedicated their careers to meeting the health care needs of their patients. You assume that the doctors and staff will make every effort to diagnose your issue and offer a course of treatment designed alleviate and eventually, eliminate the affliction. What happens, though, when the doctor gets it wrong? Missed or delayed diagnosis of a health concern can be a serious matter, especially if a delay in treatment leads to the advancement of the condition to the point it can no longer be effectively treated. For just this reason, many medical professionals rely upon a process known as differential diagnosis to establish the nature of a patient’s illness or injury and how best to treat it.
What is Differential Diagnosis?
At its core, differential diagnosis is a problem-solving algorithm that utilizes the process of elimination to narrow down a medical diagnosis and the underlying cause of the condition. A highly-dramatized version of the method was a centerpiece of the popular television show House, M.D., in which the characters compiled a list of potential diagnoses based upon the symptoms presented by the patient and his or her personal and medical history. By analyzing the likelihood of each possibility relative to the others, the team would conduct tests and trial treatments to identify the issue, removing conditions from the list until only the correct one remained.
In the real world, differential diagnosis is similar. When you present a condition to your doctor, he or she must analyze your situation based upon the available information. Your current symptoms, medical and travel history, and the impact of over-the-counter remedies or self-treatments will help your doctor rule out certain conditions and to ultimately arrive at a most-probable conclusion.
Obviously, making a medical diagnosis is extremely nuanced, and, thanks to the complexity of the human body, no diagnostic system can be perfect. The use of differential diagnosis alone is not enough to protect a doctor from allegations of substandard care. The process requires careful consideration and meticulous attention to detail. For example, if you doctor rushes through your list of symptoms and remedies you may have tried at home, the initial differential list may be incomplete and may not include your actual problem. Similarly, ordering the wrong test to rule out a particular condition could also lead to mistakes in the final diagnosis.
A missed or delayed diagnosis can lead to serious problems in properly treating your medical concern. In the most grave situations, a condition may become terminal before the correct diagnosis is found. You have the right to expect a certain standard of care from your doctor, which means a level of care appropriate throughout the industry for a doctor of similar age, specialty, experience, and training. Failure to meet that standard could result in medical malpractice action against the doctor.
If you have been improperly diagnosed or a delay in your diagnosis has caused you damages, contact an experienced DuPage County medical malpractice attorney. Our tenacious legal team will review your case, help you understand your options, and make every effort to get you the compensation you deserve. Call 630-920-8855 for a free introductory consultation today.