Study finds 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed every year

A recent study has found that approximately 12 million people are misdiagnosed during outpatient visits each year.

Many people who visit their physicians nowadays find that it is a rushed experience. The main reason for this is that physicians are pressured by insurance companies to see the maximum number of patients possible each day. In addition, physicians are also motivated to maximize their profits.

Unfortunately, a side effect of this "efficiency" is that doctors often do not have time to listen to their patients, perform thorough examinations or ask questions. As a result, this can often lead to a failure to diagnose the patient's correct condition. This fact was recently highlighted in a survey that was published by the journal BMJ Quality and Safety.

The study found that one in 20 adults that seek medical care from an emergency room or medical clinic in the United States walks away with the wrong diagnosis each year. This amounts to 12 million people. Of these people, the researchers estimated that about half suffer harm because of this type of medical malpractice.

Additionally, it was found that about five percent of people overall that see a physician in an outpatient clinic are adversely affected by a misdiagnosis. Unfortunately, the study found that in many of these cases, the correct diagnosis could have been made with the information reflected in the medical records from the first consultation.

Any kind of diagnostic error can have serious repercussions, especially if the disease is serious like cancer. A failure to diagnose cancer, for example, can delay the time that the patient receives effective treatment, which can make the cancer harder to treat or more deadly by the time the error is discovered.

Protecting yourself from harm

Although physicians should take enough time to ensure that the proper steps are followed to make a correct diagnosis, the BMJ and other studies have consistently shown that this is not always the case. As a result, it is important for you, the patient, to protect yourself when visiting your physician.

Before arriving at your doctor's office, it is helpful to write down all of the symptoms that you are suffering, your family's medical history, any treatments that you have tried and any questions that you have. This will ensure that you do not forget to mention them, if you are being hurried through the examination.

During the examination, mention everything on your notes, but do not draw any medical conclusions yourself. Once the doctor has arrived at a diagnosis, ask questions about how he or she reached the diagnosis and whether any other conditions would explain your symptoms. Take notes during this process or ask for a copy of the doctor's notes. If you are not satisfied with the doctor's explanation of his diagnosis, it might be in your best interests to seek a second opinion.

If you or a loved one have suffered harm because of a physician's failure to diagnose the correct condition, you may be entitled to damages under the law. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can advise you of your rights and recommend that best way to proceed.

Keywords: failure to diagnose, medical malpractice