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Erroneous Cancer Diagnoses and Misdiagnoses due to Pathology Lab Deficiencies

A recently released report by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that at least 25 people have been affected by cancer misdiagnoses at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina. The report showed that at least three people who never had cancer were misdiagnosed and treated for cancer they did not have.  Three other patients faced delayed cancer treatments after test results incorrectly determined they did not have cancer. One of these patients was later found to have breast cancer.  Erroneous test results also affected another 19 patients, but the report determined that their “treatment was not impacted.” Luckily, in these cases, follow up testing caught the flaws in the initial tests.

In order to participate in the Medicare program, hospital providers are required to meet certain requirements. Internal complaints from patients instigated a federal investigation into the facility that was completed in February of 2018. This investigation was undertaken in order to determine the facility’s compliance with Federal Medicare requirements, and the results were not good for the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Center of Medicaid and Medicare officials have given the hospital until June 12 to correct deficiencies in the pathology lab or face suspension of Medicare billing services.  According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Medicare and Medicaid patients represent 44% of the hospital’s gross receivables.

Hospital officials contend that these results are the fault of single individuals, rather than systematic errors. “[M]ost, if not all of the misdiagnoses centered on a single individual who is no longer with Wake Forest Baptist,” according to hospital president Dr. Kevin High. The hospital has admitted that “additional quality processes, laboratory equipment optimization as well as staff training and education” are needed. The hospital maintains that these corrective actions are underway or have been completed.

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