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Misdiagnosis continues to pose a significant threat to patient safety

By March 9, 2019July 19th, 2022No Comments

A study shows that millions of Americans are misdiagnosed by physicians every year, presenting a substantial risk to the safety and health of patients.

The author of a recent article published in U.S. News and World Report observes that millions of Americans are misdiagnosed by doctors every year thereby presenting a substantial risk of injury, or death, to patients. One study cited by U.S. News reveals that doctors at outpatient clinics wrongfully diagnose at least one in every 20 adult patients nationwide. Frighteningly, at least half of those errors had the potential to lead to severe harm and even death. One expert was quoted as saying that misdiagnosis poses a distinct threat to healthcare quality and patient safety.

Robert Wachter, a renowned professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, wrote an article in Health Affairs Journal on the problem of diagnostic errors. According to Wachter, the diagnostic error problem still has not gotten sufficient attention from the American medical community. He found this surprising in light of the fact that some studies have indicated that diagnostic errors account for twice as many medical malpractice lawsuits than any other type of medical error. Wachter believes that better training may help combat the diagnostic error problem. Specifically, medical students and residents “must be taught not to miss certain key diagnosis.”

MedPage cites a study showing that the following are the conditions most often misdiagnosed in a hospital setting: (1) Pulmonary embolism; (2) adverse drug reactions; (3) lung cancer; (4) colorectal cancer; and (5) acute coronary syndrome. Breast cancer, strokes, fractures and congestive heart failure are some other commonly misdiagnosed conditions occurring in hospitals. The National Center for Policy Analysis says that one study revealed that almost 30 percent of mistakes in diagnosis were either a threat to life or resulted in death or permanent disability.

Medical misdiagnosis is not limited to hospitals. A report in American Medical News says that given the hectic schedule maintained by primary care physicians, the typical doctor now spends much less time with patients per office visit than in past years. Visits are now “so truncated” that one cannot hope to achieve the correct diagnosis based simply on a patient’s appearance and chief complaint. Some of the more common conditions misdiagnosed by primary care physicians are acute kidney failure, cancer, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and urinary tract infections.

Safety tips

Web MD advises that, to avoid a diagnostic error, you might want to write down a synopsis of your ailment with the symptoms being described as accurately as possible. If consulting a specialist, put together documentation of what medical diagnostic measures have been undertaken thus far. Inform specialists of your medical history and what diseases and medical conditions run in your family. Bring in your medications so that the doctor can evaluate what effect, if any, your meds might have on the condition you present with. Importantly, do not be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Question your doctor whether there are other specialists, procedures or tests that might provide a useful second opinion.

Seek advice

No patient deserves to be harmed due to a medical misdiagnosis. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical misdiagnosis which has caused you harm, you should contact a California attorney experienced at handling medical malpractice cases. The attorney will sit down with you and discuss the facts in order to determine whether you may have a claim for compensation. California medical malpractice cases can be complicated and it is advisable to talk to an attorney who is familiar with reviewing medical records.