It is every medical patient’s worst nightmare. You go to the doctor to have routine tests performed. To your relief, everything comes back negative. You are in the clear. But, a few months later you begin to experience some health problems. Another doctor’s visit is scheduled, and more tests are done. This time the news is much worse. It’s cancer, and it has spread significantly. If you had received treatment earlier the options might be better, but now things look bleak.
Unfortunately, many families find themselves in this situation, and it is often connected to diagnostic errors. Medical tests are only as worthwhile as the work of the doctors reading and interpreting those tests. When those medical professionals make mistakes, patients may suffer serious injury or even death. That is particularly true in cases involving cancer diagnosis, because time of of the essence.
Fixing the Problem
There are many reasons why a doctor may fail to properly read test results. One of the most common stems from fatigue. Keen senses and sharp judgments are necessary to identify possible issues when reading medical test results. If a doctor is tired or overworked then there is an increased risk of mistakes.
That is why some in the industry are hoping to combat the problem. According to a story in Diagnostic Imaging, new software exists which can pick up subtleties in spoken reports and identify stress and fatigue. A full research report on the software’s use in medical settings can be found here.
The goal is that hospitals and medical clinics can use this software to identify when doctors might not be performing at their best. For example, radiologists can use the software to identify when they need some sort of intervention before reviewing the next testing image. Those working on protocols for the software suggest that the intervention could be something as subtle as listening to soft music to recommending a break.
As the software develops it can be customized so that each doctor’s unique situation can be taken into account by the system. Promoters of the software note that the goal is to help radiologists better identify their own vulnerabilities.
Patient safety advocates note that many radiologists are resistant to change, and there will likely be pushback to increased use of this type of system. However, the hope is that the commitment to improving patient care and minimizing errors will prevail. One doctor urging use of the speech recognition software explained, “We need to stop saying the current model of how we operate is good enough. It’s not.”
Legal Help Following Misdiagnosis
Hopefully more medical professionals will take a look at this type of software and ensure diagnostic images are read properly each and every time. Until that day comes, however, it is important for families in Baltimore and throughout Maryland to understand that they have legal rights to ensure accountability if they are ever harmed by medical errors of any kind, including delayed or missed diagnosis. A medical malpractice lawyer can help explain how the law might apply in your case.