How common is medical misdiagnosis in the U.S.?

While healthcare professionals are some of the most trusted professions in the country, they do make errors which can have a major impact on peoples’ lives. Researchers found that at least 12 million patients every year leave emergency rooms and outpatient clinics with the wrong medical diagnosis or without being diagnosed at all, according to BMJ Quality & Safety. At least six million people suffer potential harm from these wrong diagnoses. More instances may occur that go unreported or undiscovered by medical professionals.

You may wonder how these medical errors happen and why they are so prevalent in these types of medical settings. Physicians and nurses who work in outpatient clinics often lack a detailed medical history of the patients they are treating. Patients may fail to give them a complete history or they could overlook an important indicator that something is wrong. Furthermore, ERs and clinics are often chaotic environments, and doctors are often rushed from one patient to the other. Medical professionals may be unable to spend an adequate amount of time with the patient that is needed to get a full understanding of the issue.

Physician negligence is also a problem. The doctor may order the wrong screening test or make an erroneous decision when it comes to making a diagnosis. These types of medical errors can have lasting effects on patients. People may be forced to undergo unnecessary treatments or take medications that could have unpleasant side effects. During this time, the actual condition may become worse, as it is going untreated.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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