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What are some causes of a delayed medical diagnosis?

You probably depend on medical professionals to keep you and your loved ones as healthy as possible, but what happens when a delayed medical diagnosis causes severe illness or even death? The National Center for Biotechnology Information notes that such errors are the sixth-most common cause of death among Americans and cause more than 80,000 deaths each year.

Because these delays are common, learning their causes may protect you or a loved one from severe illness or death from a misdiagnosis that is uncovered too late.

Poor communication between providers

Delayed diagnosis issues often occur when a patient’s primary care doctor refers a patient to a specialist when a medical problem is uncovered. Several inconsistencies in communication can cause a delayed diagnosis, including:

  • The incomplete transfer of medical records
  • Delayed communication between doctors
  • Confusion regarding multiple test results

When healthcare providers do not communicate fully, this can result in a delayed diagnosis that may slow the treatment of your medical problem, such as cancer.

Diagnostic errors

While advancements in medical technology have paved the way for more effective treatments, they can also lead to errors. Diagnostic testing such as MRIs, x-rays and biopsies may all include minor errors that can lead to an incorrect conclusion. False-positive results could also lead to delays. If the results of any diagnostic testing are in question, you may want to ask your physician to repeat the test, if possible, to rule out any possibility of error.

Improved training for healthcare professionals and greater client feedback may reduce the number of delayed diagnosis cases in the United States. You can reduce your own risk by remaining informed about your medical care and tracking communication between one or more providers.