All doctors would agree that there is room to reduce diagnostic errors. But the Institute of Medicine’s report was unfair to physicians because it did not mention that many times when they make errors, they correct them on their own or through hospital committees to lessen the likelihood of reoccurrence.

Not mentioning this may cause some patients to have pointless anxiety about the quality of care that they receive in their doctors’ offices or in their hospitals. And when they suffer bad outcomes, even if they were unpreventable, they might be more inclined to sue their doctors.

Worse, sometimes malpractice lawyers file unwarranted malpractice suits against doctors. These so-called frivolous suits are filed by opportunistic attorneys because they know that doctors would rather settle a case than go to court.

These frivolous suits can last for years and cause doctors needless and painful worry about their reputations and livelihoods while waiting for the suits to wind their way through the legal system. I suspect that many paid malpractice claims fall into this category.

The American Hospital Association in 2013 reported that there were over 35 million hospital admissions alone; not to mention the untold millions of visits to doctors’ offices.
Considering the many distractions and demands made on doctors, it is remarkable that so few harmful diagnostic errors are made.

The glass is half full, and not half empty as the Institute of Medicine suggests.

Dr. Edward Volpintesta has been a general practitioner in Bethel for 40 years.

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