Study: Medical misdiagnosis affects millions of Americans each year

When doctors fail to diagnose patients or provide the wrong diagnosis, it can have serious effects on patients’ lives.

When people get sick in Michigan, they rely on medical professionals to provide an accurate diagnosis and create a treatment plan that will help them get better. Since physicians, nurses and other professionals in the health care industry are human, they are inclined to make mistakes. These inclinations can be exacerbated by staffing shortages, poor training and other inconsistencies. Medical errors, however, have the potential to cause serious patient injuries and even death. Misdiagnosis is just one type of error that occurs in the medical industry, and it happens more often than some may think.

A misdiagnosis made by an emergency room nurse resulted in catastrophe for a young baby suffering from a flesh-eating infection, according to a CNN News report. Rather than provide immediate medical attention, the baby was made to wait for five hours while the infection spread through her body. The baby's limbs were amputated because of the nurse's faulty diagnosis of a virus rather than the serious bacterial infection.

Studies and research

Hospitals are not the only medical setting where misdiagnosis occurs. A study published in BMJ Quality & Safety evaluated cases of misdiagnosis in doctors' offices and outpatient clinics, as reported by CBS News. Researchers indicated that at least one in 20 patients, which calculates to be 12 million people, are misdiagnosed in these settings every year. In at least half of those cases, patients faced significant harm from the erroneous diagnosis. Experts believe that even more victims go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, as many cases go unreported and/or undetected.

A look at misdiagnosis

According to an NBC News report, a patient safety expert and researcher found a lack in follow-up appointments in physicians' offices even after there were abnormal findings during the patient's first visit. These findings were later linked to cases of lung and colorectal cancer. The study found that in more than 5 percent of the cases, the initial diagnosis was wrong. While this may not seem like a significant number, but it represents human lives that may have been saved had they received an accurate diagnosis the first time around.

The study also found that the common factors leading to misdiagnosis included the following:

  • Failure to order the correct diagnostic test to detect the problem.
  • Errors in reading the diagnostic test results.
  • Patients who fail to give doctors their full medical history and doctors who do not evaluate the medical history properly.

All of these factors are preventable if the right procedures are put in place.

Taking legal action

If you are the victim of a doctor's failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis or any other type of medical malpractice, you may want to think about speaking to an attorney in Michigan regarding your legal options.