Study: Medical misdiagnosis occurs at a surprising rate

A recent study showed that the rate of medical misdiagnosis in outpatient clinics is surprisingly high.

Whether patients are going in for a regular check-up or are sick with an unknown condition, they expect that the knowledgeable physician caring for them will be able to find out what is wrong and prescribe the proper treatment. What some people don't realize, however, is that physicians can make mistakes when diagnosing patients. In fact, medical misdiagnosis happens more often than some people may realize. A prominent medical journal recently published a study showing that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death.

The study

In one study, researchers looked at patients who were seen in emergency rooms and outpatient clinics to determine the rate at which they were either misdiagnosed or did not receive a diagnosis at all. According to CBS News, the results showed that a surprising 12 million people received the wrong diagnosis. This equated to approximately one out of every 20 patients that were seen in these settings. At least six million of the cases may have resulted in serious injury or harm to the patient. Researchers acknowledged that despite the study's findings, it is hard to calculate an accurate number of cases involving misdiagnosis, as some patients may not know that they have been misdiagnosed at all.

Potential causes of misdiagnosis

There are several reasons why doctors may inadvertently make errors when diagnosing patients. Physicians often have a limited amount of time to spend with each patient, or they simply don't take enough time to get to the bottom of the problem. Rushing through a visit may cause a doctor to miss a crucial detail that could be a vital component in making a diagnosis. Some doctors just don't listen to their patients, especially when the patients are female. Furthermore, outpatient doctors and specialists may not have a full understanding of the patient's entire medical history, which could also influence the diagnosis. Inexperienced, fatigued or otherwise inattentive doctors may misread a screening test or imaging study, or may order the wrong test for the condition.

Implications of medical errors

Mistakes that occur at the doctors' office can lead to serious and sometimes permanent injuries that can affect people for years to come, according to an NBC News report. If a patient receives the wrong diagnosis and is being treated for the wrong medical problem, the actual condition may worsen over time. The patient may be taking medication that they don't need, and may needlessly be experiencing unpleasant side effects as a result of taking the drugs. Patients may also undergo needless procedures or therapy in treatment for a condition that they don't have.

Dealing with the consequences

If you have been misdiagnosed or a doctor failed to diagnose your existing condition, you may want to seek legal action. You may not have gotten needed treatment, had needless surgical procedures, taken medication, or have needlessly suffered pain as a result of the misdiagnosis. A personal injury attorney in California may be helpful in determining if you are eligible for compensation for your case.