A new statistic has been announced in a recent report claiming 5 percent of adults seeking outpatient care are misdiagnosed. This is roughly 12 million people who go to outpatient care clinics and are given a false diagnosis. Six million of those people are put in danger for this reason. Potentially everyone who ever expects to seek medical help, is threatened by the risk of clinical error and misdiagnosis.
The study was published in the BMJ Quality and Safety journal. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine claims diagnostic error is the leading cause of medical malpractice within the United States. It is estimated that 40,000 to 80,000 deaths occur annually from misdiagnosis.
Prior studies examined the rates of misdiagnosis which have focused primarily on hospital patients. This new report, however, suggests a very large number of outpatient care physicians are giving misdiagnosis that are, in effect, comparable.
Dr. Hardeep Singh, lead author and researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says, “It is important to outline the fact that this is a problem.” Misdiagnosis threatens potential patients everywhere, and that is literally everyone.
Because of the popularity and common place of outpatient clinics, the diagnosis rates make many people vulnerable. “This is a huge number, and we need to do something about it.”
Data sources within the new study include two previous studies, which detected unusual patterns of return visits following a primary care visitation, or lack of follow-up after abnormal clinical findings associated with colorectal cancer. These data included both suggestive and concrete diagnostic errors.
Singh says that patients coming in with undifferentiated symptoms take time for the doctor to diagnose them with various work-ups. Singh is also an associated professor who continues to urge physicians to make patients more aware of how things evolve, and what patients need to do to assist in their own care.
Late diagnosed cancer is not the only risk of misdiagnosis, as all harmful illnesses and diseases pose a danger for these patients.
Many years ago, in 2003, actor John Ritter died of an aortic dissection. This condition is fatal, and occurs following the tearing of the major artery that is attached to the heart. His wife settled for a wrongful death lawsuit against the California hospital. She asserted that he had been misdiagnosed two times.
Experts that follow these reports and study misdiagnosis have come to discover certain conditions are misdiagnosed repeatedly. Aortic dissection is one of these common misdiagnosis. The patient feels a unique tearing sensation in the chest, but occasionally, the signs can be missed as the patient reports symptoms pointing to other diseases. Robert Bonow was once the president of the American Heart Association and said that this condition can feel like heartburn.
The other conditions commonly misdiagnosed are cancer, clogged arteries, heart attack, and infection.
NBC News recently reported that a patient named Erika Hanson Brown’s colorectal cancer was misdiagnosed several years prior. She is now age 70 and was repeatedly misdiagnosed until the condition progressed to Stage 3C. She is now an advocate known as the “Mayor of Colontown.”
Though the reasons vary for why doctors misdiagnose patients, sometimes clinics and hospitals are somewhat “chaotic.” In 1999, the Institute of Medicine claimed 98,000 people die each year from medical errors.
If a patient comes in and is told by their doctor that they are just fine and there is nothing to worry about, the patient might now be reminded of these recent reports. Misdiagnosis potentially threaten everyone as needless injury and deaths may occur.
By Lindsey Alexander