What Your Primary Care Provider Doesn’t Know CAN Hurt You
Is your PCP reluctant or unwilling to refer you to a specialist?
When you need a physical, or you’re feeling under the weather and suspect something just isn’t right, you probably contact your primary care provider (PCP) to be evaluated.
Hopefully, you don’t have any health issues that your PCP can’t readily manage. But what if you do? More importantly, what if you do, but your PCP doesn’t know it or won’t acknowledge it?
A PCP is often a general practitioner or a physician’s assistant (or nurse practitioner) performing under the supervision of a doctor. Primary care providers are often very competent medical professionals, adept at handling a wide range of health conditions. But some symptoms and health problems are red flags that need to be assessed by a specialist. An essential part of primary care practice is to recognize when a patient needs the services of a specialist.
Failure to refer is a very real danger to your health
PCPs are often referred to as gatekeepers. This is due to their role in determining whether you need access to other doctors for more specialized care through the almighty referral. Unfortunately, an alarming number of PCPs fail to recognize the need for either a referral or a consultation with a specialist. And when they choose to treat you themselves, with inadequate medical knowledge, there are a host of possible dangers you may encounter. Most often, failure to refer leads to a delay in proper diagnosis and treatment. For example, if a routine urine test done in conjunction with an annual physical exam reveals blood in your urine, your PCP will explore possible causes with you and order a follow-up urinalysis. The blood is still there? Then it may be time for a referral to a urologist, who can perform comprehensive tests to rule out or diagnose any number of conditions, from a kidney infection to bladder cancer.
It’s imperative that your PCP recognize critical warning signs and not hesistate to refer you to a doctor who specializes in the applicable area of medicine, rather than assume they can adequately diagnose and effectively treat complex health conditions. A PCP’s failure to recognize the need for specialized knowledge can have dire consequences, such as a delay in treatment, causing additional health problems and complications, or in more extreme cases, death.
Leading Causes of Medical Malpractice in Ohio
For a closer look at the harm that failure to diagnose and refer can cause, let’s turn to some statistics. The Ohio Department of Insurance compiles a Medical Professional Liability Closed Claim Report annually detailing medical malpractice claims throughout the state. The 2015 report reveals the following pertinent data from 2013, and between 2005 and 2013.
- In 2013, there were a total of 3,019 medical malpractice injury claims in Ohio.
- Non-obstetric injuries resulting from a failure to treat, improper treatment, and delay in treatment represented 31.8% of the injuries.
- Diagnosis-related failures, such as misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose and delay in diagnosis accounted for 22% of the claims in 2013.
- A look at the types of injuries for the 2005 – 2013 interval shows that a combined total of 52.3% of all injuries were diagnosis-related, and associated with failure to treat issues.
- These percentages represent more than half of the total claims.
Many patients feel their primary care provider doesn’t want to send them out for more specialized care. If you are like most patients, you find it difficult to challenge your doctor’s knowledge and skill. At the Eisen Law Firm, our Ohio medical malpractice attorneys understand your hesitation, but we want you to be aware that you always have the right to ask for a referral. If you or someone you love has already been the victim of malpractice due to your PCP’s failure to refer, call our firm at 216-687-0900 or contact us online to discuss your circumstances and learn how we can assist you.