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Baby's lab result delays lead to medical malpractice case

Residents of Phoenix, Arizona, likely try to find the best possible medical care for any treatment. Individuals are likely to ask for recommendations from friends, family and other health care providers, especially when it comes to pediatric services. Even if parents find the best place for newborn delivery and the best pediatric staff, misdiagnosis or other issues can occur due solely to a delay in paperwork.

An investigation of samples taken from hospitals in 26 states indicated a lack of organization and reporting around newborn lab tests. In Arizona, around 17 percent of blood samples taken from newborns took at least five days to reach state labs for analysis. When the results of the test can pinpoint genetic issues that could become dangerous to babies, the lack of efficiency in testing borders on medical negligence.

In another state, a family filed a medical malpractice suit due to this issue. Their son was born with congenital hypothyroidism, but it was not diagnosed for 99 days. The family contends that the boy's lab results were not provided in a timely manner, and physicians didn't even realize the results were not reported.

According to the family, the boy suffered developmental delays that could have been avoided had physicians been able to diagnose him shortly after birth. The state in question has a requirement for birthing facilities to track lab samples and reports. Staff at the hospital where the baby was born state they didn't have such a system. They also reported that no health officials ever checked to ensure the systems existed.

With so much at stake for newborns, many states are working to increase efficiencies in the lab testing and reporting processes. The Arizona Department of Health Services director states he wants 95 percent of screenings to be completed within three days. In the meantime, parents who suspect their child is not functioning in a healthy manner should press doctors to check on lab reports to ensure any diagnosis is made in a timely manner.

Source: Journal Sentinel, "Secrecy clouds efforts to track newborn blood tests" Mark F. Conrad, Dec. 30, 2013

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