When you walk into a dress shop, and the server assesses you and hands you a size 12, you may be offended if you are a size 10, but the only thing harmed is your pride. When a mechanic decides you need a new starter motor, but it’s the alternator that is broken, it might be frustrating, but it’s not life-threatening. When you go to the doctor, and they get the diagnosis wrong, it could kill you.
The Johns Hopkins Institute estimates that doctors who make the wrong diagnosis cause around 100,000 people to die or become permanently disabled each year in the U.S.
If a doctor diagnoses a cold, when you have flu, it’s not a big deal. Yet some misdiagnoses matter. The John Hopkins study looked at all the medical malpractice claims that involved a misdiagnosis between 2006 and 2015. They found that errors in diagnosing three conditions accounted for 75% of all these claims. Cancer accounted for 38%, vascular events for 23% and infections for 14%.
The study found that clinical judgment was a factor in 85% of the misdiagnosed cases, and 71% happened in either emergency rooms or outpatient clinics. Armed with this new information, hospitals can consider how to reduce the chances of misdiagnoses occurring. They could involve specialists at an earlier stage or use technology to obtain another opinion on the diagnosis. There are more straightforward ways, too. Talking to the patient or their family can provide a wealth of information and reduce the risk of error.
Seek legal help if you believe you or a family member have been harmed due to a medical misdiagnosis. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.