July 18, 2014
Study Finds 12 Million Patients Misdiagnosed in Outpatient Care Annually
By Jonathan Damashek
Every year, millions of patients throughout the United States visit their doctor’s offices or another medical clinic with symptoms of an illness or injury. Patients who see their doctors expect a prompt, professional diagnosis of their symptoms and proper treatment of the condition they have. But they don’t always get it.
According to a recent article in the New York Post, 12 million U.S. patients are misdiagnosed in outpatient care every year. That’s about one patient in every 20. For about half of those patients, or about 1 in 40, those misdiagnoses can lead to irreparable harm.
A team of Texas researchers performed the study. The results appear in the British medical journal BMJ Quality & Safety. The medical researchers combined data from three studies that examined outpatient clinic records. The researchers reviewed the data to identify diagnosis errors and estimate how frequently these errors occurred. Overall, the researchers found that the rate of misdiagnosed patients was about 5 percent. Nationwide, five percent of patients equals about 12 million people.
Misdiagnosis can cause serious harm to patients’ health and safety. For example, a misdiagnosis of heart disease or cancer can delay the proper diagnosis, leaving the patient to suffer additional harm such as the spread of cancer. By the time the correct diagnosis is made, treatments that could have restored the patient to full health may no longer be effective.
Reasons Why Many Patients Are Misdiagnosed
One reason so many patients are misdiagnosed is that doctors who provide outpatient care are frequently overworked. They may see too many patients in a day and have too little time to spend with each one. When doctor’s offices attempt to order and interpret diagnostic and lab test results, they may face additional hurdles. As a result, the diagnosis of patients can suffer greatly.
The aim of the study was to estimate more accurately how often patients seen in outpatient settings are misdiagnosed. While efforts to improve patient safety have addressed inpatient care and diagnosis, less research has been done to improve the standard of outpatient care – a fact that many medical malpractice attorneys face regularly when their clients have suffered serious injuries as a result.
As a result of the study, the researchers made several recommendations for reducing the rate of misdiagnosis in outpatient settings. The recommendations included more efficient use of information technology and creating better systems for patient follow-up, monitoring, and tracking. Researchers say that healthcare organizations, patient advocates, medical staff, and patients themselves all have a role to play in reducing misdiagnosis rates and improving patient safety.
If you’ve been injured by a misdiagnosis, a delayed diagnosis, or improper medical treatment, don’t wait: call the experienced New York medical malpractice lawyers at Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. Your initial consultation with our office is free and confidential.