Diagnostic mistakes pose a major problem in the U.S. In fact, Medical News Today reports that misdiagnosis represents the most frequent and most serious type of medical error, accounting for over 40,000 annual deaths in U.S. hospitals.
Given that there are over 10,000 recognized diseases, many with similar and overlapping symptoms, perhaps it is not surprising that doctors misdiagnose them all too frequently. Nevertheless, the deaths and permanent disabilities these misdiagnoses cause are truly mind-boggling.
The new study conducted by Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence that the Medical News article reports on examined more than 11,000 recent medical malpractice claims. The results revealed that the following “big three” conditions account for almost 75% of the misdiagnoses that cause “serious harm,” i.e., death or permanent disability:
- Cancer – 33+%
- Vascular issues – 22%
- Infections – 13.5%
The researchers then broke the “big three” into the 15 specific conditions most often misdiagnosed. Here, the top ten came in as follows:
- Lung cancer
- Heart attack
- Blood clots
- Skin, prostate and breast cancers
While researchers call for additional funding to address diagnostic errors, the message for you as a patient is clear. You need to be proactive whenever you go to see your doctor or other health care provider. Describe your symptoms as accurately as possible, including exactly what hurts, where it hurts, the type of pain, i.e., burning, stabbing, aching, etc., and its frequency and severity.
In addition, listen carefully to the questions your doctor asks you and think carefully before you answer them. Again, the most accurate answers will most effectively aid him or her in making a correct diagnosis and then start you on a course of action most likely to relieve your discomfort.