Medical misdiagnosis happens more than some may think

When physicians fail to diagnose a patient or provide the wrong diagnosis, they run the risk of seriously harming their patients.

While some Washington residents leave their physicians' offices with a number of different conditions, such as pneumonia, arthritis, hypertension or high cholesterol, others may be sent home without a clear diagnosis as to what is wrong. A study published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety showed that a surprising number of doctors fail to diagnose or misdiagnose their patients on a regular basis, according to an NBC News report. This serious form of medical malpractice can lead to disability, trauma and even death. In fact, the National Center for Policy Analysis revealed that diagnostic errors are more common than both medication and surgical errors.

Researchers have conducted similar studies, evaluating the rate of misdiagnosis in hospital and emergency room settings. However, this study focused primarily on the prevalence of medical misdiagnosis in outpatient clinic environments. The study found that at least 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed in these settings every year. More than six million patients may suffer serious physical harm as a result of failed diagnoses. Some experts believe that even more cases of misdiagnosis occur annually, as some physicians fail to report incidents of malpractice and some patients are not aware that they have been misdiagnosed.

How does this happen?

Although healthcare workers and physicians must undergo years of extensive study and practice before obtaining their professional licenses, they are still subject to human error. According to the Washington Post, some contributing factors that may lead to diagnostic errors include:

  • Patients who do not disclose their full medical history, including family history of conditions or medications that they are taking.
  • Physicians who do not review the patient's full medical history.
  • The wrong types of tests are ordered or doctors do not read the test results correctly.
  • Lack of follow up on crucial symptoms that may be indicative of bigger problems, such as heart disease and cancer.
  • Doctors do not spend enough time with each patient and are unable to fully evaluate the patient's symptoms or grasp the scope of the condition.

In many instant-care and after hours clinics, doctors have not seen the patients before and therefore, do not have a complete understanding of ongoing symptoms or potential conditions.

What can patients do?

When people take the time to see a physician, they expect to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment for their condition. In some cases, this may mean getting a second opinion from another doctor. Patients should not be afraid to see several specialists, especially if they feel as though their symptoms are not going away or are getting worse. People should also follow up with their doctors and ask for test results.

A case of medical malpractice

If you have suffered because a physician has failed to diagnose your condition correctly, you may be eligible to receive compensation. Any type of medical negligence can cause a great deal of physical and emotional trauma. You may want to speak to a medical malpractice attorney in Washington regarding the details of your case and your legal rights.

Keywords: misdiagnosis, malpractice, negligence