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In Pennsylvania and around the country, health care providers occasionally misdiagnose illnesses and injuries. In many such cases, antibiotics are improperly prescribed and patients are harmed by those drugs. A recently-released study shows how prevalent this problem is.

The researchers looked at 500 inpatient cases at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, and they found that 95 percent of the patients who received an incorrect or undetermined diagnosis, or who received none at all, were inappropriately given antibiotics. According to the author of the study, antibiotics are prescribed for approximately 56 percent of inpatients at hospitals in the United States. Approximately half of those patients do not necessarily need them. Common misdiagnoses occur with patients that have ailments such as pneumonia, cystitis, and urinary tract infections. These inappropriate prescriptions can cause a variety of issues including the reduced effectiveness of the drugs, increased health care expenses and patient harm.

A common cause of these misdiagnoses is doctors relying on their instincts and intuition instead of conducting a proper analysis. By skipping the scientific method used for diagnosing patients, consistency is lost and patients are potentially put in danger. Other issues that cause misdiagnoses include fatigue, sleep deprivation and lack of experience. Hospitals and other health care facilities can reduce the prevalence of this problem by creating a standard method for diagnoses.

Patients whose conditions have worsened due to a misdiagnosis may wish to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to determine if there is any recourse available. An attorney may be able to examine the patient's electronic health care records in order to make a determination that a health care practitioner failed to observe the requisite standard of care and should thus be held financially responsible in a civil lawsuit for the damages that the patient has incurred.

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