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Black men underdiagnosed with lung diseases

On Behalf of | Jul 13, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

When Idaho patients see their doctors, they expect their physicians will accurately diagnose their medical conditions. Unfortunately, some doctors miss diagnoses and fail to properly identify the illnesses their patients are suffering from. In certain cases, a serious medical condition can worsen and become much harder to treat following a missed diagnosis. By the time the patient receives the right diagnosis, it could be too late. A recent study showed that some doctors fail to diagnose Black men with lung diseases because of a biased software algorithm.

Biased algorithm leads to diagnostic failures

According to research conducted on Black and white men who sought treatment at the University of Pennsylvania Health System between 2010 and 2020, doctors failed to diagnose an estimated 400 Black patients with lung diseases who met the criteria. The researchers reviewed records of 2,700 Black patients and 5,700 white patients who underwent spirometry or lung volume measurements. Spirometric data is run through a software program that relies on an algorithm. The algorithm includes built-in assumptions that Black men have worse respiratory health in general, which leads to discounting symptoms they might have that indicate various lung diseases.

What happens when a diagnosis is missed?

When a patient’s serious health condition is not diagnosed, their condition can progressively worsen and be much more difficult to treat. For example, if a patient has early-stage lung cancer and is not diagnosed by a doctor, their cancer could progress to a later stage that doesn’t respond to chemotherapy by the time they are finally diagnosed. Doctors who fail to properly diagnose patients when a reasonably competent physician would have correctly diagnosed them under the same circumstances could be liable for medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor provides care that deviates from the standard expected of competent practitioners in the same field of practice with the same education and skills. When a doctor’s medical negligence in failing to diagnose a patient causes the patient’s injuries, the patient might have grounds to pursue a claim for medical malpractice against the physician. The worsening of a condition could qualify as an injury in this type of situation.