Failure to report a patient’s medical test or imaging results to attending doctors and medical providers is one of the leading causes of misdiagnosis.
Reporting Medical Test Results for Patients
According to medical research studies, patient test results are often reported improperly or not at all to physicians and medical professionals responsible for a patient’s care. When this occurs, a patient may suffer injuries or medical complications from an illness or disease. Without receiving timely test results for patient procedures and treatments, the patient’s health condition may be misdiagnosed and/or left untreated. Proper reporting and communication of a patient’s test results are just as important as the patient’s medical diagnosis.
Most medical testing is divided into two broad categories – diagnostic tests and screening tests. Within those categories, there are a variety of tests used to diagnose a patient’s illness or disease; order exams, medical procedures, and treatments; prescribe necessary medications, and follow up on patient progress.
- Diagnostic Tests – Diagnostic tests are administered to patients who exhibit signs or symptoms of an illness or disease such as cardiovascular problems, lung and respiratory problems, and certain cancers.
- Screening Tests – Screening tests are used to look for problems in patients who are considered at risk for developing an illness or disease. Screening tests include routine mammograms for women and prostate scans for men.
- Laboratory Tests – Laboratory tests are usually administered to collect blood, urine, as tissue samples. Laboratory tests are routinely done to check a patient’s cholesterol levels and insulin levels, as well as thyroid, kidney, pancreas, and liver functions.
- Image Tests – Image tests such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds are performed to diagnose a variety of conditions including broken bones and fractures, head and brain trauma, joint and muscle problems, and pregnancy.
Regardless of the specific medical testing administered to a patient, timely, accurate test results are key to preventing medical mistakes and ensuring proper diagnosis and treatments. Failure to report test results in a timely manner to a patient’s attending doctor or medical professional may constitute medical negligence. If the patient suffers harm, further injury, or complications from his/her condition, the patient can file a lawsuit with a medical malpractice attorney.
Causes of Medical Errors and Improper Test Reports
Although medical testing is usually ordered by a patient’s attending physician, the actual test is typically administered by a medical technician in a laboratory, clinic, or hospital. When image tests are ordered, a trained radiologist or pathologist normally performs the test. When medical errors occur, they are usually caused by the technician administering the test or faulty test equipment. The most frequent causes of improper test reports include:
- A technician who is not properly trained on equipment
- Testing equipment that is damaged or defective
- An image that is unclear or distorted
- Misinterpretation of test results by a technician
- Misdiagnosis of test results by a technician or doctor
- Failure to order follow-up testing
According to medical research studies, up to 80% of medical malpractice cases are filed because of communication problems. One study shows that physicians failed to acknowledge about 36% of abnormal radiology test results and failed to inform patients of abnormal test results in about 30% of cases. Studies also show that up to 32% of physicians report having no reliable method for ensuring that patient test results are actually received.
In a 2011 Journal of Medicine study, reports stated that improper reporting of patient test results has increased the number of national malpractice claims, as well as legal costs to the medical community across the country. The failure to notify patients of improper test results, misdiagnosis, and health complications has increased legal costs by as much as $70 million over the last 10 years.
Filing Malpractice Claims and Lawsuits
Patients who suffer injuries caused by medical procedures and treatments can file a medical malpractice lawsuit based on medical negligence. While some diagnostic and testing errors may be seen as reasonable, patients can suffer harm that stems from inadequate communication as the result of negligence on the part of medical providers.
Many Indiana medical malpractice claims are the result of medical errors caused by inadequate or incomplete documentation on test results, failure by technicians or office staff to follow proper procedures, and lack of an inadequate tracking system for patient test results. There are a number of reasons for medical errors and failure to report test results, but they all create increased risk of patient injury, even death.
In Indiana, medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed with a malpractice attorney within the statute of limitations, which is two years from the date of injury. State laws set a filing deadline of two years for any lawsuit against a health care provider based upon professional services or health care that was provided or that should have been provided.