Trauma and car accidents involving head injuries happen at all hours of the day, which is why there are emergency rooms and doctors available to treat patients around the clock. If you need a CT scan, MRI, X-ray, or other imaging test that a radiologist reads, you would assume that a radiologist at your local hospital will be standing by at all hours; however, this isn’t the case any more. Many small hospitals use a process called teleradiology.
Teleradiology allows a hospital to outsource the reading of scans. This means that a radiologist could be sitting at home in a different time zone or country, reading a scan for a hospital. Unfortunately, teleradiology can lead to confusion and medical mistakes that can adversely affect patients.
The downside of teleradiology is that doctors typically don’t communicate with off-site radiologists or pass along patients’ medical histories. Also, reports get mixed up, lost, or end up in the wrong file and never relayed to patients. In addition, a radiologist might notice a life-threatening condition and note it in the report instead of contacting the physician, which can result in delayed diagnosis and treatment. While teleradiology can work in many situations, it can lead to worse injuries for patients due to poor communication between medical professionals.
The Impact of Radiology Errors
Radiologists—both on-site at hospitals and in off-site locations—are trained to read imaging tests and interpret them to provide accurate information about patients’ medical conditions. When they fail to spot abnormalities on tests or properly diagnose conditions, patients cannot get the treatment they need. Ultimately, mistakes made by radiologists can lead to patients’ worsened medical conditions. Sadly, many people have been the victims of brain injuries or worsened brain damage due to radiology errors and misdiagnosis.
The Reality of Radiology Mistakes Causing Serious Injuries
Whether a patient receives a CT scan or other imaging test at a large hospital with a radiologist on-site or at a small hospital that uses an off-site radiologist to interpret the test results, radiology errors can occur. When they do take place, the consequences for the patients involved can be life-altering.
In a real-life example from 2011, a 30-year old woman went to the emergency room of a small hospital in Pennsylvania complaining of the worst headache of her life. The hospital did not have a radiologist on site and sent her scans to a contractor, who misdiagnosed the mass on the scan as a tumor. The patient was sent home, but returned by ambulance several hours later. The scan was then sent to a subcontractor in Hong Kong, who noted abnormalities, but was unable to communicate with the doctors on site, according to NBC news. This lack of on-site consultation and communication ultimately resulted in the patient suffering permanent brain damage that impacted her memory, intellect, and ability to function. All parties involved were sued for negligence, but the settlement remains confidential.
Radiology Malpractice Claim
When a medical test is misread and head trauma is missed, or a radiologist improperly diagnoses a condition that leads to a serious brain injury, victims of radiology errors have legal rights. Patients are owed a duty of care; when a physician or radiologist fails to uphold that duty of care, there is a breach of duty. If patients can show that a breach of duty is what led to their injuries and real damages, then injured patients have valid malpractice lawsuits on their hands.
If you or a family member suffered brain damage as a result of a radiology error, you need to talk with a lawyer about your rights to a medical malpractice claim. You may be entitled to more than what the hospital or insurance company is offering you—both economic damages (i.e., compensation for your medical bills) and non-economic damages (i.e., compensation for your pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other negative effects resulting from the medical error). When physical, emotional, and financial damages result from negligence or malpractice, it is critical that you seek justice. Call us at (703) 721-4233 today to find out how we can help you pursue your radiology malpractice claim.