The person most Billings, Montana, residents turn to when they are not well or something is wrong with his or her health is a medical professional. These people are considered medical experts, and patients rely on these experts to use their training and knowledge to determine what is wrong and what the best course of treatment is. Unfortunately, medical errors can occur, including a misdiagnosis and a treatment plan for the wrong ailment.

How often do diagnostic errors occur and what harm can they cause? According to the Institute of Medicine, diagnostic errors are so frequent that most patients are likely to experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime. However, there are only a few measures to accurately track these errors, making it difficult to ascertain how often they actually occur.

The harm caused to the patient is based on the error type and how long it goes without being corrected. If a patient suffers a misdiagnosis and begins treatment for something he or she does not have, this could be problematic in two ways. First, the wrong treatment could harm the patient, leading to new health problems. Second, the failure to properly diagnose the patient could lead to worsened conditions with respect to the original ailment.

Common causes of diagnostic errors include inadequate collaboration and communication among medical professionals treating a patient, the limitation of feedback for doctors on the accuracy of his or her diagnoses and the current culture that discourages transparency and the disclosure of diagnostic errors when they occur.

No matter the cause or the seriousness of a diagnostic error, such negligence could be very harmful on the health and safety of a patient. An injured patient harmed by diagnostic errors could hold a negligent medical professional liable for his or her mistakes. Additionally, a medical malpractice suit could help the patient recover compensation for any losses or damages arising from the incident.

Source:, “Diagnostic errors put millions of patients at risk, report says,” Ashley Welch, accessed Feb. 8, 2017.