New York residents who have been seen by their trusted family physician may believe that their doctor has properly evaluated their condition, provided an accurate diagnosis, and begun a treatment plan. Yet, in a surprising number of medical cases across the country, patients have been diagnosed with the wrong condition. In some cases, the proper diagnosis was delayed or the physician failed to diagnose the patient's condition altogether. When doctors misdiagnose a condition, their patients are in danger of receiving the wrong treatment for the wrong condition. As the undiagnosed condition continues to worsen, the patient may become seriously injured or even die in more severe cases.
Misdiagnosis: The facts
According to an article published in the BMJ Quality & Safety journal, more than 12 million adult patients, or one out of 20, are estimated to be misdiagnosed each year. Researchers performing the study carefully evaluated medical records and diagnostic errors from a sample group. They then used a mathematical formula to expand the results to include the entire U.S. adult population. According to CBS News, researchers found that just over 5 percent of adult patients are misdiagnosed each year. They also discovered that one-half of all diagnostic errors may potentially lead to significant harm. These numbers are also thought to be grossly underrated, as many cases of misdiagnosis go unreported.
Possible reasons for misdiagnosis
Although America has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world, medical professionals are still prone to human error. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the following as common factors leading to misdiagnosis:
- Physicians who order the wrong type of diagnostic screening test, misinterpret the results, or fail to follow up on a test.
- Patients who do not disclose their full medical history with their physician.
- Doctors who do not perform a comprehensive evaluation on patients, and therefore miss crucial information that may lead to a diagnosis.
- Doctors who do not schedule enough time with each patient and rush through the evaluation process.
- Doctors who are fatigued or have not received the proper training.
- Doctors who are dealing with a rare condition that they have never seen or have little experience with.
Some doctors avidly encourage patients to seek out a second opinion when they are not completely sure of a diagnosis. Doctors who do not may increase their risk of misdiagnosing a patient.
Consequences of medical misdiagnosis
When a healthcare professional fails to diagnose a patient or provides the wrong diagnosis for a condition, they may cause severe damage, trauma, or even death. This type of medical negligence may cause the patient to undergo unnecessary treatments or surgical procedures. Some patients may take prescription medication that they don't need, and may suffer harmful side effects as a result. A treatment plan that is created to take care of a misdiagnosed condition may exacerbate an illness.
Partner with an attorney
When doctors make medical mistakes, they put their patients in harm's way. If you suffer from an injury or condition that occurred as a result of medical negligence, you may want to contact an attorney to help you with your case.