Misdiagnosis more prevalent than some may think

When people go into an outpatient clinic or visit the emergency room, they put their trust in the physicians and other medical professionals caring for them. People rely on their medical team to find an accurate diagnosis and provide treatment that will improve the issue. Yet, some people forget that doctors and health care professionals are human and make mistakes. These mistakes, however, can cause serious long-term damage and even death to unsuspecting patients.

According to a study published in BMJ Quality & Safety, more than 12 million adults in the United States are misdiagnosed each year when seeking treatment in an outpatient facility. This equates to one in 20 patients. In at least half of the misdiagnosed incidents, patients are severely harmed as a result of the medical error. How does this occur and why does it happen so often?

Researchers point to several factors when looking for a cause of the medical mistakes. Miscommunicate between professionals can result in diagnostic errors. Physicians may not have a complete medical history for the patient, as these patients are not regulars in the office. Furthermore, doctors may order the wrong tests or misread the test results to get an inaccurate diagnosis. Doctors in outpatient clinic settings are often rushed to see a number of patients in a short period of time. Not spending enough time with the patient may cause a hurried diagnosis or a missed diagnosis altogether.

A misdiagnosis can result in patients being treated for a condition they do not have. Meanwhile, the actual condition may be getting worse. Patients may take medication they do not need or undergo unnecessary surgeries or procedures as a result of the misdiagnosis.

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