HMO fails to diagnose and treat patient's cancer

HMOs are big healthcare corporations employing hundreds of doctors of different medical specialties, nurse practitioners, nurses, and technicians.  Often they have sophisticated technology so the physicians can communicate with one another.  And some of their patients have been with them for 15 or 20 years.

So how could this happen?

A longtime patient had hip pain that wasn't going away with physical therapy, medication, rest, even injections.  Eventually her primary care physician ordered an x-ray of the hip.  He thought it was just arthritis, or "getting old."

The radiologist reviewing the x-ray thought it could be one of three things, and one of those was chondrosarcoma, or bone cancer.  He was right.

The radiologist transmitted the x-ray report to the primary care physician who ordered the x-ray.  And the primary care physician didn't look at it.  Just assumed it was nothing. The patient returned to her HMO for hip pain.

Six months later a nurse practitioner saw the x-ray report and ordered immediate follow up tests that confirmed it was cancer and was invasive.  The patient ultimately had her leg amputated because the cancer had spread through much of the bone by that time.

The original x-ray showed the cancer was small enough to remover surgically and surgery at that time would have saved her leg.    

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