Misdiagnosis of an Ebola case

It does cause one to wonder. A hospital receives a patient in the emergency department complaining of symptoms that would suggest he could have Ebola. He also informs the hospital that he had recently traveled to West Africa, site of a very large outbreak of Ebola. They send him home.

When the man returned two days later, with obvious symptoms of Ebola and was readmitted to the hospital, the hospital initially blamed the misdiagnosis on technology. They stated that the electronic medical records (EMR) system essentially had two tracks and the nursing track displayed the travel information, while the physician track lacked that information.

With a disease like Ebola, a misdiagnosis can turn into a deadly case of medical malpractice. In this case, the man died a week later, and it is unclear if he had been admitted on his first visit whether he could have been saved.

Because the disease advances rapidly, not only is the patient at risk of death from a misdiagnosis, but due to the contagious element of Ebola, anyone who comes in close physical contact with an Ebola patient is at an elevated risk for contracting the disease themselves.

By releasing a contagious Ebola patient back into public the hospital could have caused dozens of additional cases.

The hospital later admitted that it was not a failure of its EMR system, but in fact, the failure of medical personnel to successfully complete a proper clinical evaluation. The Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines for hospitals to use in evaluation potential Ebola patients as soon as the outbreak began to develop in Africa.

Any patient presenting symptoms that could even vaguely suggest Ebola and who had recently returned from West Africa should have been immediately subjected to very close scrutiny by emergency department physicians.

One of the standards for negligence is that a person did something that they “knew or should have known” was incorrect. This case certainly appears to present such negligence.

Spacecoastdaily.com, “EMR Not Responsible For Ebola Patient’s Misdiagnosis,” Dr. James Palermo, October 7, 2014

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