A Surprising Mistake That Your Physician May Make When Treating You


What is the surprising mistake that many negligent physicians make when treating their patient? They don’t actually review the results of the tests that they ordered that indicate that there is something medically wrong with the patient. According to the Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company (MLMIC), one of the largest insurance providers to physicians in New York State, this negligent act happens more often than one would expect. In fact, it is so prevalent that MLMIC sends out information packets to the doctors that they insure detailing this and other common negligent acts that physicians make.

One such information packet recently contained the booklet, “Proactive Risk Management Program I”, which details numerous case studies of mistakes commonly made by physicians. The very first case study describes how a physician negligently did not review a report that indicated that his patient had bladder cancer. It has been summarized here:

A 58-year old male presented to a urologist with a history of having painless, yet large amounts of blood within his urine. Although a urinalysis (basic test of the urine) was normal, a test to detect abnormal cancer cells in the urine was also ordered. The patient was given an appointment to return to the office in two weeks for a follow-up. The urologist’s letter to the physician that referred the patient indicated that further tests for bladder cancer would only be done if the bleeding recurred or the report to detect abnormal cells was positive.

The report for the abnormal cells was received in the office from the laboratory and was placed in the patient’s chart by the secretary, since the patient was to be seen in the office that day. The patient never appeared for the appointment and the chart was filed. The urologist never reviewed the report that indicated that there were suspicious, precancerous cells present in the patient’s urine.

The patient presented to the office seven months later complaining that he had passed tissue during urination. At this visit, the urologist finally noticed the abnormal laboratory report. After further testing, a pathology report revealed that a tumor was now present within the patient’s bladder. He ultimately had to go through extensive treatment. A lawsuit was brought against the urologist for a delay in the diagnosis of cancer.

Unfortunately, this situation happens all too often. One would think that a physician would always read the results of a test that he had ordered for his patient. However, that is not the case. Some physicians do not always hold up to the high standard that we set for them and this case study should serve as a lesson to you as a patient – Don’t just think that your doctor is automatically going to read the medical report because that is what good doctors do. Remind them about the report, make sure that he or she reads it, and always go into the office for a follow-up visit if it is suggested. Even if you may feel silly asking your physician if he or she read your test results, do it anyway. It could save your life!