Accurately identifying a medical condition is one of the most important services that a doctor provides to their patients. Much of the training that physicians receive during medical school relates to the proper process for establishing a diagnosis when a patient presents symptoms.

Unfortunately, the diagnostic process is not always straightforward. Conditions may present differently in different individuals. Everything from age to gender can influence how someone experiences a specific illness or medical event.

Physicians have an obligation to their clients to make every effort to reasonably and quickly diagnose conditions, especially those that could have life-threatening consequences. Unfortunately, roughly one in 20 patients will experience a misdiagnosis that could have catastrophic medical consequences for them.

What is the physical impact of a delayed or missed diagnosis?

The more serious a condition is, the more important it becomes that the patient receive timely treatment. Accurate diagnosis is of the utmost importance for those dealing with life-threatening conditions such as cancer, stroke or cardiac arrest.

A delay in diagnosis could mean that a patient’s condition worsens significantly or that they have fewer treatment options. What could have resulted only in outpatient care or the need for certain medications could require prolonged hospitalization, surgery and rehabilitation services after a doctor misses a diagnosis.

For some people, that delay could be the difference between possibly recovering and dying. For those with stroke or similar neurological issues, a delay could mean substantially reduced function for the remainder of their life.

The financial implications of a delayed diagnosis

Needing more intensive treatment will obviously drastically increase the cost of the medical care you require in order to recover from a condition. Additionally, the more severe your illness or disease becomes, the greater the potential for lost wages or even the end of your career.

In situations where insurance doesn’t fully cover your medical costs, you may wind up saddled with financial obligations that you struggle to repay. In theory, if you can demonstrate that your physician ignored symptoms or improperly diagnosed you, you may have the option of holding them accountable for your financial losses related to their diagnostic failure, including the increased medical expenses that you incurred during your treatment and your lost wages.