Study shows that doctors misdiagnose patients at a surprising rate

A surprising number of doctors misdiagnose or fail to diagnose patients’ conditions, which could cause patient harm.

Medical professionals have gone through years of schooling and are professionally licensed to work in the health care industry. As a result, many Texas residents and people around the country trust that their physicians and doctors will accurately diagnose their condition and formulate a plan to take care of the problem. Despite this high level of confidence, physicians do not always give accurate diagnoses. In some cases, doctors may fail to diagnose the right condition altogether. These misdiagnoses can lead to serious problems, including permanent disabilities and even death to patients.

Research published in BMJ Quality and Safety journal found that 12 million American adults are misdiagnosed in outpatient clinics each year. According to CBS News, this statistic equates to approximately one in 20 patients receiving a misdiagnosis. This figure doesn't include people who are wrongfully diagnosed in hospital and long term care settings. The study found that in at least half of the misdiagnosed cases, patients may have been seriously harmed.

Ways that doctors misdiagnose

There are several factors that may lead to a potential misdiagnosis. According to NBC News, these include:

  • Doctors may have limited time to spend with each patient, making it hard to correctly read the symptoms of their condition.
  • Doctors who practice in certain areas may have to deal with frequent interruptions, which can make it hard to carefully consider the details of the patient's case.
  • Some clinics may lack the equipment and assessment devices doctors need to make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Patients may fail to present doctors with a complete medical history and detailed list of symptoms. Doctors can also miss the mark when it comes to evaluate the patient's symptoms.
  • Doctors may order the wrong diagnostic screening tests or misinterpret the results of the tests.
  • Doctors may forget to follow up with the patient to see if their symptoms have subsided.

Unlike primary care physicians, doctors who work in outpatient clinics, emergency rooms and other hospital units have not established a professional relationship with the patient. This can make it hard to discern certain changes in the patient's health.

Effects of misdiagnosis

The implications of failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a patient's condition can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences. The patient may be made to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures that could increase his or her risk for infection. These procedures can also be costly and result in excessive medical expenses. After diagnosing a patient with the wrong condition, a physician may order medication to treat the wrongfully identified ailment. This medication may have certain side effects that can affect the patient's health.

Finally, when an ailment is diagnosed improperly, the actual condition responsible for causing the symptoms can worsen. For example, lung cancer may be misdiagnosed as pneumonia when viewed on a diagnostic screening device. While treating the pneumonia, lung cancer may have time to spread to other areas of the body. Similarly, breast cancer may go undiagnosed in a patient when a physician fails to feel a lump during a breast exam.

When to seek legal counsel

Victims of medical malpractice may wish to seek legal counsel from an established attorney in Texas. A lawyer may be able to help you review your legal options. You may be entitled to receive compensation for the medical expenses, pain and suffering you endured because of a doctor's negligence.

Keywords: medical, malpractice, misdiagnosis, hospital, injury