One in Five Serious Conditions Are Misdiagnosed

Approximately 20 percent of serious medical conditions are misdiagnosed. When an illness is misdiagnosed it can limit effective treatment options, prolong an individual’s pain and suffering, and potentially cost them their lives.

The Causes of Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis can occur because the physician is unfamiliar with the patient’s health history. It can occur when a physician or nurse is improperly trained in the use of diagnostic equipment, or because they order the wrong type of screening.

Medical misdiagnosis can also occur when a patient is not thoroughly examined by members of the medical team. This can occur when a facility is understaffed, or when a physician/nurse is overworked and fatigued. Another common reason for misdiagnosis is the misinterpretation of test results and imaging gathered by MRI’s, CT Scans, X-Rays, etc. This can cause potentially lethal illnesses to remain undetected unless symptoms persist and further testing is conducted.

The Size of the Problem

The National Academies of Sciences estimates that medical misdiagnosis affects up to 12 million individuals every year. These incidents occur in every setting ranging from the physician’s office to the hospital emergency room. It is estimated that misdiagnosis affects up to 5% of all patients who seek outpatient medical treatment in the United States.

The Importance of a Second Opinion

The Mayo Clinic published a study on patient misdiagnosis in 2017. Of patients who sought a second opinion, it was estimated that only 12% received the correct diagnosis from the primary care provider. Approximately 20% received an incorrect diagnosis, while 66% required amendments to the initial diagnosis.

The Impact of Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis can prolong a patient’s suffering and cause the person to suffer unnecessarily. This can diminish the individual’s quality of life and reduce earning capacity.

Similarly, if a patient is misdiagnosed, the person may be subjected to medical treatments that are inappropriate for the health condition. This can cause undue damage to the health and finances of victims as they spend money on treatments that do not address their illnesses.

In more serious cases, diagnostic errors can lead to the progression of a disease. For instance, if cancers are missed in the primary diagnosis, they can spread throughout the body. This complicates treatment options and can significantly reduce a patient’s prospect for recovery.