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The dangers of misdiagnosis

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2021 | Failure To Diagnose |

When you are sick or not feeling well, you rely on the expertise of health care professionals. However, doctors, surgeons and specialists frequently overlook troubling symptoms or test results when providing care and diagnostics. Misdiagnosis is sadly not at all uncommon in the medical world.

A study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that inaccurate diagnosis — including misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis — is the main contributor to serious medical errors. Misdiagnoses affect approximately 12 million patients in the U.S. each and every year. Of those, 33% suffer serious or permanent damage.

Diagnostic errors in the big three

A misdiagnosis always has the potential to cause harm. Still, there are some misdiagnoses that are more dangerous than others. According to a study by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, misdiagnoses cause the most harm when the following three illnesses are involved:

  • Cancer
  • Vascular events
  • Infection

Fifteen different diseases from these three categories account for approximately 47% of all high-severity misdiagnosis medical malpractice claims. Stroke is the most commonly misdiagnosed vascular disease, while infection is the most commonly misdiagnosed infection. Doctors are also more likely to misdiagnose lung cancer than other types of cancer.

Where does misdiagnosis happen?

The majority of diagnostic errors — approximately 71% — take place in ambulatory settings. Ambulatory settings include places like emergency departments and outpatient clinics. Doctors in emergency departments are more likely to misdiagnose infections and vascular events, while doctors in outpatient settings are more likely to misdiagnose cancer.

Reducing diagnostic errors and harm

Experts caution that health care providers need to make changes to improve diagnostic accuracy as well as timeliness. However, making changes at the individual level is not enough. Systemwide change to improve how health care providers track and monitor patients in North Carolina is also a key part of minimizing misdiagnoses.

A misdiagnosis can affect more than just your physical health. Delayed treatment or care can also impact you emotionally, and may even lead to steeper medical bills or time off work. While this can be an understandably overwhelming situation, you have the option to hold negligent physicians accountable through a medical malpractice claim.