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Medical misdiagnosis occurs more than you think


Misdiagnosis in an outpatient setting is a difficult medical error to document for a number of reasons. For example, Tennessee residents who do not receive an early diagnosis may never be aware that the issue was present but unidentified at a previous appointment. Adverse surgical events and drug reactions have a much higher probability of documentation.

A Tennessee medical malpractice attorney may be aware of a recent study printed in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety that used the results of data from previous studies to estimate the number of missed and incorrect diagnoses each year.

Errors in the millions

The information analyzed in the report came from three earlier studies that provided details about diagnosis and follow-up outpatient visits. By applying a mathematical formula to the number of errors discovered in that data, researchers were able to approximate the rate of error in adult outpatient settings in the United States. The medical correspondent for CBS News commented on the results, pointing out that the rate of misdiagnosis, 5.08 percent, represents approximately 12 million medical mistakes annually.

Based on previous work, the authors suggest that half of these medical mistakes could potentially cause serious harm through missed or delayed treatment. Even though approximately 97.5 percent of outpatient diagnoses are successful, a Tennessee medical malpractice attorney may be alarmed by the suggestion that there are 6 million undiagnosed or misdiagnosed health problems each year.

Patient safety techniques

A 2012 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine listed the three most frequently missed symptoms that are often misdiagnosed, which are abdominal pain, shortness of breath and coughing. According to the article, there are several common reasons that medical problems go unrecognized in spite of symptoms such as these, including the following:

  • Diagnostic test ordering problems
  • Test result misinterpretations
  • Incomplete medical history from patients
  • Rushed doctor visits

Patients may be able to side-step some of these issues by preparing for appointments. Providing clear family and personal medical histories and writing down any symptoms can be helpful for doctors when analyzing a potential problem. After tests, experts recommend that patients follow up on the results, especially when there are unexplained delays. The statute of limitations in Tennessee may prevent a malpractice lawsuit under certain circumstances.

Failure to rescue

Outpatient settings are not the only source of missed diagnoses. According to Healthgrades.com, a comprehensive database of information on healthcare providers and hospitals, the most frequent cause of patient safety events was a failure to diagnose and treat issues in time to save the patient. For every 1,000 hospital patients, there are 155 "Failure to Rescue" incidents.

Patients who suspect that a delayed diagnosis has led to serious health problems may want to speak to a Tennessee medical malpractice attorney about the process of gathering evidence to determine whether a medical malpractice lawsuit could be feasible.

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