Misdiagnosis Happens Twelve Million Times a Year in the United States
People go to the doctor all the time, and they put their faith and full belief in the physicians who see them. They never stop to think that there is a possibility that the doctor could actually misdiagnose them. However, that happens far more often than anyone would like to think. In fact, according to a study published in BMJ Quality & Safety, it happens to patients in the United States around twelve million times each year for patients seeking outpatient medical help.
This number equates to about one out of every 20, or 5% of, patients receiving a wrong diagnosis. If you are sitting in a waiting room with twenty other patients, there’s a good chance that one of you will not receive the right diagnosis from the doctor. Among those misdiagnoses, about 50% of them have the potential to result in actual physical harm. With odds like that, going to the doctor can take a frightening turn, and it is enough to make some people rethink going to the doctor at all.
What Makes the Study Different?
Many of the previous studies that covered misdiagnosis of patients concerned themselves only with the diagnosis for patients who were in the hospital. This study differs in the fact that it is actually focusing on the patients who are going to clinics and offices.
The researchers of the study used data gathered from three previous studies that followed diagnosis and follow-ups. One looked at misdiagnoses in primary care facilities, while the other two studies looked at the diagnoses from lung cancer screenings. They then calculated the average frequency of doctors giving the wrong diagnosis based on the information in those studies. They do note that it is important to remember that their findings are only estimates.
What causes misdiagnosis in patients? According to other studies, including one published in JAMA Internal Medicine, part of the blame might actually lie with the patients, at least in some cases. Sometimes, patients are not entirely forthcoming with their history, and this can cause the doctor to order the wrong diagnostic tests or to look for the wrong things when giving a diagnosis. Doctors can certainly be at fault as well, and one of the major causes of misdiagnosis is the doctor misreading and misinterpreting the results of the tests. Lack of knowledge and incompetence, while rare, can be the cause as well.
Reducing the Risk of a Misdiagnosis
To lower the risk of a misdiagnosis as a patient, it is important to provide the medical professionals with a full and honest medical history and an accurate depiction of symptoms. By giving the doctors the right information, it makes it easier for them to order the correct tests and to ensure a proper diagnosis. Being vigilant as a patient is important as well. Instead of letting the doctor rush through the examination, make sure he or she takes his time and that you understand the results. Never feel bad about getting a second opinion either. Always choose high quality clinics and doctors who have good reputations as well.
What if You Received a Misdiagnosis?
Of course, even by taking these precautions, there is still a risk of misdiagnosis on the part of the doctor. It happens regularly, as the study points out. In those cases, the patients need to have some type of recourse, and the best thing they can do is to get in touch with an attorney who has experience in the field and who can help them examine their options. If a doctor misdiagnosed you, you could be due compensation and damages.