Misdiagnoses Affect 12 Million Americans Each Year, New Study Reports
April 26, 2014
Approximately 12 million people who visit outpatient medical facilities in the U.S. are misdiagnosed every year, according to the results of a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Quality & Safety. In fact, by evaluating the data from three larger studies conducted in the recent past, researchers found that:
About 1 in every 20 American patients is the victim of some type of diagnostic error.
- Roughly 5 percent of patients who visit outpatient facilities is misdiagnosed.
Researchers pointed out in this study that these misdiagnoses specifically pertained to cases in which there was sufficient evidence present at the time to make a proper diagnoses (based on, for example, an individual’s symptoms and available diagnostic test results).
Causes and Effects of Diagnostic Errors
While any number of factors can contribute to diagnostic errors in a clinical setting, researchers in this study primarily pointed to the following issues as playing significant roles in increasing the likelihood of misdiagnoses:
- The minimal time that doctors have with patients
- The fact that patients often move between various specialists and doctors in outpatient settings (making it less likely that any single physician has the whole picture when it comes to patients’ ongoing health).
In some cases, misdiagnoses have relatively minor effects on patients’ overall health. However, as researchers in this study found, about half of all cases of diagnostic errors had serious impacts on patients. In fact, in the worst cases, diagnostic errors led to some patients’ conditions progressing to life-threatening stages (such as in the case of misdiagnosed cancer).
The Bottom Line
Clearly, misdiagnoses are a serious issue in outpatient settings. While researchers in this study have stated that they believe that more work needs to be done in terms of analyzing the causes of diagnostic errors, they have also urged doctors to be more diligent about:
- Following up with patients
- Conducting more than one diagnostic test when appropriate
- Expressing their uncertainties to patients when there may be ambiguity regarding a diagnosis
- Encouraging patients to seek second opinions when there are issues with a clear or definitive diagnosis.
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We realize how devastating diagnostic errors and other medical mistakes can be, and our lawyers are here to aggressively defend injured people’s rights to both justice and compensation. While this means that our Portland malpracticelawyers will work diligently to help our clients tell their stories in court, it also means that our attorneys and dedicated staff will vigorously stand up to insurers and others outside of the courtroom to ensure that our clients are able to obtain the settlements they deserve.
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