Failure to diagnose a condition correctly is more common than operating on the wrong side of the body. In 2009, 583 cases were misdiagnosed and resulted in death or serious injuries. The problem is severe and was recently discussed at an international conference. Studies have shown that misdiagnoses stem from negligence and a flawed way of thinking, not because the illness is exotic or rare.
In spite of the impact and adverse effects, the issue has been largely ignored over the years. Misdiagnoses often happens because of the doctor's failure to follow up with the test results. Lack of obvious solutions and generalized resistance from the medical community attributes to jeopardy of patient safety. Hospitals do not count diagnostic errors, and a sufficient data base presently does not exist to conduct in-depth studies in order to prevent these problems.
An elite group of medical leaders has recently expressed its views about the growing complexity of medical treatments, high-tech equipment and lack of traditional physical diagnoses. The overuse of the newest technologies is overshadowing the common sense and hands-on skills of many physicians. As many diagnoses are multi-faceted and complex, the errors may not be discovered for several years.
Some scenarios create more opportunities for mistakes than others. Time pressure and a patient's distrust or lack of previous medical history may also lead to misdiagnoses. In many cases, the doctor is unable to communicate with the patient because of a language barrier or medical impairment. Also, the physicians may never know that they failed to diagnosed properly if the patient leaves the practice and finds another medical provider. Many diagnostic errors result in malpractice litigation. However, a vast majority go undetected and are never addressed by any legal action. A personal injury attorney may be a good source for legal help in cases of wrong diagnoses.
Source: The Record, "Misdiagnosis more common than drug errors or wrong-site surgery", Sandra G. Boodman, June 06, 2013