When we’re not feeling well, most of us trust that a visit to the doctor or an outpatient clinic will help fix what ails us. As health care providers, physicians around the country are relied on by their patients to provide accurate diagnoses, which, when accompanied by appropriate treatment, will hopefully have us feeling better sooner rather than later.
It’s startling, then, to discover that medical misdiagnoses are not that uncommon. According to a study published earlier this year, researchers from the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine found that every year, one in 20 Americans, or approximately 12 million people, receive a misdiagnosis from outpatient clinics and physician’s offices.
The study combined data from several published studies which shared a similar criteria for and a common definition of diagnostic error: “missed opportunities to make a timely or correct diagnosis based on available evidence”. Researchers used a population-based approach to estimate the annual rate of misdiagnoses based on the proportion of diagnostic errors found in a careful review of the data.
While it’s not known how much harm is caused by such misdiagnoses, the study’s researchers noted that previous research indicates approximately half of all diagnostic errors could potentially result in severe harm. Based on the study’s numbers, then, potentially six million individuals per year may experience harm due to a medical misdiagnosis.
Is there anything patients can do to help decrease the risk of receiving a misdiagnosis? There’s not much you can do if your doctor fails to perform a thorough exam, orders the wrong diagnostic tests or makes an error in the interpretation of test results, but according to CBS News, you can help improve your chances of getting an accurate diagnosis by giving your doctor a complete medical history and following up with your doctor regarding any test results.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a medical misdiagnosis and are seeking a qualified medical malpractice attorney, contact Los Angeles doctor-turned-lawyer Bradley I. Kramer for a free consultation today.