Failure to Refer

Primary physicians are often a patient’s first step in receiving the treatment that they need, either by choice or the requirements of a health plan. For many issues, a patient may need to go no further than a family doctor, but for specific or more serious maladies, a specialist may be required, and any delay could be costly and even dangerous for the patient. That is why we at Zimmerman & Frachtman think it is important for patients to know that even a failed or delayed referral can constitute medical malpractice.

How do Doctors Make Referrals?

A doctor may make a referral after a patient comes to the office or after a phone conversation with the patient. Sometimes, doctors will merely contact a specialist for assistance on a diagnosis. More often, these referrals are because the patient needs a specialist’s focus to make a better diagnosis or because the specialist has a skill set particular to whatever is ailing the patient.

The Potential Consequences

If a primary physician fails to refer a patient or delays referring a patient, there can be serious consequences. The patient’s condition could worsen to the point that more expensive and extensive treatments are necessary. It could also mean that an untreated injury or illness could progress to a point where there are lasting effects to the patient’s quality of life. Serious issues could even result in the patient’s death.

Though primary physicians are skilled doctors, they do not have the focus in a particular field to recognize or perform the proper treatment for all ailments that could walk through their doors. That means that important details can be missed and surgeries or other treatments won’t be performed unless a patient is seen by a specialist.

Filing a Claim for Malpractice

If you or a family member had an illness or injury that went undiagnosed, was incorrectly diagnosed, or under treated because you did not receive a timely referral to a specialist, you may have a claim for medical malpractice against your primary physician. Contact Zimmerman & Frachtman to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help you proceed with your claim.