New Study Reveals Implications of Diagnostic Errors and Misdiagnosis Among Americans

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A Recent Study by Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine Revealed that Almost 800,000 Individuals in the U.S. Experience Permanent Disabilities or Death due to Improper Diagnosis on an Annual Basis.

According to a recent Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Diagnostic Excellence study, roughly 795,000 Americans suffer permanent disability or death due to misdiagnoses, citing a misdiagnosis rate of 11% among doctors. However, the misdiagnosis rate does not apply evenly to all conditions, as some are misdiagnosed more than others. These numbers result from medical practitioners across the board, whether in hospitals, medical offices, or clinics. The study’s lead author calls the vast number of patients dying (nearly half) or permanently damaged by receiving an incorrect diagnosis, a public health crisis. 

Which Diseases and Conditions are Frequently Misdiagnosed?

The study also reveals which diseases are more likely to result in the wrong diagnosis. While more common conditions like heart attacks are less likely to be wrongly diagnosed, rarer conditions are often misdiagnosed. The study concludes that the concentration on heart disease over the last several decades has equipped doctors with more resources and knowledge about the condition, so fewer misdiagnoses occur. On the other hand, rarer conditions and those with less pronounced symptoms are often mistaken for other illnesses or missed altogether. 

Medical professionals often misdiagnose spinal abscesses and strokes, the former being rare and the latter due to subtle symptoms that appear like many other conditions. Since a patient complaining of dizziness can have many conditions, including plugged ears or an inner ear infection, doctors are more prone to diagnose something other than stroke. In fact, stroke is one of the five leading misdiagnosed diseases (misdiagnosed 17.5% of the time), followed by sepsis, pneumonia, blood clots, and lung cancer. While cancer, infection, and vascular conditions cause the most serious harm overall, these five constitute 38.7% of all severe injuries. 

How did Researchers Find Annual Results of Misdiagnoses?

In completing the study, researchers focused on specific diseases and the patients who suffered misdiagnoses associated with those diseases. To configure how many people suffer from a particular disease, they analyzed data from various medical facilities, such as hospitals, medical offices, urgent care clinics, in-patient care, and others. They then calculated the proportion of the total patient population suffering from faulty diagnosis. Thus, they quantified the number of patients with a specific condition who received the wrong diagnosis. In total, 15 diseases caused the most harm. Tallying the disease-specific patient harms led to the total number of disabilities and fatalities resulting from diagnostic errors: 371,000 deaths and 424,000 disabling injuries.

Identifying the Study’s Value to Save American Patient Lives

The study’s value lies in identifying the health problems with the highest error rates so that future studies and diagnostic practices can address solutions for these targeted areas. The study prompts medical facilities to adapt system-wide protocols to reduce diagnostic errors in all areas of medical practice. In fact, one investigator for the Center for Diagnostic Excellence, the study’s sponsor, suggests that 150,000 lives a year could be spared when the error rate is reduced by half in the five main disease areas: stroke, sepsis, pneumonia, blood clots, and lung cancer.  

Until further research and medical governing bodies collaborate to address the disastrous diagnostic trend, patients must beware of inadequate and even dangerous medical care. When your condition worsens or does not improve after a doctor or hospital visit, you may be a victim of medical malpractice. Although not all health declines after diagnosis and treatment result from negligence, patients with symptoms consistent with the five primary diseases must have the appropriate tests, referrals, and follow-ups to rigorously rule out life-threatening conditions before a physician settles on a diagnosis.

How Medical Professionals Arrive at Accurate Diagnoses

Competent doctors closely review a patient’s medical history and physical body to begin the diagnostic process. Then, they order lab work and scans to zero in on the cause of a patient’s symptoms. To rule out or confirm infections, doctors order lab testing of blood, urine, throat, cerebrospinal fluid, and stool samples to help diagnose infections. Also, X-rays, tomography, and MRI’s help rule out other symptom causes or confirm a physician’s suspicion of the reasons. Biopsies of lung tissue or other organs identify bacterial or viral causes of pneumonia. 

They also consult with other physicians, and specialists in fields in which they may not be experts to assist in diagnosis. Physicians also continue their education to understand the ever-evolving technologies and pharmaceuticals that help diagnose and treat common but potentially fatal conditions, like cancer and cardiovascular disease. In addition, medical offices and hospitals ensure that medical personnel are trained and supervised when diagnosing patients. In other words, an entire system of medical assistants, lab technicians, nurses, and physicians must coordinate medical care to properly diagnose patients.

What to Know if a Wrong Diagnosis Happens to You

You visited your family doctor, complaining of headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Since your medical history includes asthma, stress, and anxiety, your physician sent you home with an anti-anxiety medication prescription, a refill on your asthma inhaler, and a referral to a psychiatrist. Two weeks later, you ended up in the ER, unable to breathe with chest pains. There, the ER doctors treated you for a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism complication requiring emergency treatment. Now, you cannot sleep, exercise, work, or do anything strenuous. Your life quality plummeted, and so you suffer from acute depression. Clearly, among misdiagnosed American patients, you are not alone. Misdiagnoses like yours result in an alarming number of permanent injuries and deaths annually.

You may suffer grave consequences when your healthcare provider fails to take the necessary steps to ensure that you receive a proper diagnosis. When a physician fails to order or review diagnostic laboratory results or fails to check the files of patients the physician assistant or nurse practitioner saw, they may miss important details and errors that a more experienced, competent medical practitioner can catch to avoid diagnostic mistakes. Inexcusable errors are at the heart of negligence and medical malpractice. 

When you or your loved one suffers losses from a negligent diagnosis, it is incumbent upon you to contact a seasoned medical malpractice attorney to review your situation and determine if you may be entitled to damages. You have the right to compensation for physical, emotional, and psychological losses that changed your life after a disease or condition was improperly diagnosed, resulting in complications. Once your medical provider’s negligence is established with clear evidence, you can anticipate your past, present, and future financial and non-financial losses to be covered by the liable party or parties.

At Fronzuto Law Group, it is our mission to secure maximum financial recoveries on behalf of injured patients who suffer harm due to medical malpractice. If you or someone you love has been permanently disabled, died, or sustained severe injuries due to a medical professional’s errors in New Jersey, our legal team is committed to reviewing your case thoroughly to identify diagnostic mistakes or other forms of negligence involving misdiagnosis, determining the potentially liable parties who may owe you compensation, and fighting tirelessly to prove your claim. We obtain millions of dollars in successful verdicts and settlements on behalf of misdiagnosed individuals throughout New Jersey, and we are ready to offer the legal counsel and support you need now. Call  973-435-4551  for a free case review and medical malpractice consultation.

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