Diagnosis unknown: The prevalence of misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is more common than one may think, and there are several factors that can lead to this negligence.

The medical field is one of the most trusted professions in America. Millions of people put their lives in the hands of surgeons, physicians and nurses, in hopes of staying healthy. Despite this hope and trust, a significant number of people leave emergency rooms and outpatient clinic with the wrong diagnosis or without being diagnosed at all. Medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose occurs more often than some people may think, and can have serious consequences, including unnecessary surgeries, medications, procedures and medical expenses that may otherwise have been avoided with the correct diagnosis.

The study

A study published in BMJ Quality & Safety found that 12 million adult patients seen in emergency rooms and outpatient clinics every year in the United States are misdiagnosed. This calculates out to be at least one in every 20 adult patients seen. The numbers are thought to be even higher, as some cases of misdiagnosis go unreported. Patients may not realize that they have been misdiagnosed or doctors may hesitate to report the mistake.

Potential factors causing misdiagnosis

There are several reasons why physicians may be more likely to misdiagnose a patient in an emergency room or outpatient clinic setting. These environments may be somewhat chaotic, with various doctors seeing multiple patients and nurses running between rooms. Doctors may be limited on the amount of time they are able to spend with each patient. Furthermore, patients may fail to give the physician a full medical history, leaving the doctor without critical pieces of information that may be needed to make an accurate diagnosis.

Physician negligence can also lead to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. Physicians may order the wrong screening tests or read the tests incorrectly. This may give inaccurate results. For example, a patient's lung condition may be diagnosed as pneumonia, when the correct tests would show that the patient actually has lung cancer. Once the wrong diagnosis has been given, the actual condition may worsen to the point where it can seriously harm the patient.

What people can do

When going into the emergency room or outpatient clinic, patients should always give the doctor a full medical history, including conditions, medications they are taking and any allergies they may have. In addition, patients should always ask questions regarding their care. Finally, patients may want to seek a second opinion if they do not feel confident in the diagnosis they were given.

Getting legal assistance

If you are the victim of medical negligence in New Jersey, you may want to seek the counsel of a personal injury attorney who may be helpful in exploring your legal options. You should not have to suffer due to the negligence of a medical professional. An attorney may be able to help you get your life back on track.