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How common are misdiagnoses?

When Florida residents go to a doctor, they usually expect to have their problem identified and a solution provided. While this happens in the majority of cases, a recent study found that a misdiagnosis occurs in approximately 10 to 15 percent of doctor visits when someone has a new problem. Even if a patient is eventually diagnosed correctly, the delay can lead to a rise in the cost of health care due to unnecessary tests and enabling the patient's condition to worsen by not treating it immediately.

Errors in diagnosing a patient occur half as frequently in hospital settings, but they can be more dangerous since many hospital patients are in worse conditions than those in a doctor's office. There are a number of reasons for even the best doctors to get a diagnosis wrong. Some of the most common are communication issues between a doctor and patient, test result errors and a lack of followup from either the doctor or patient.

Miscommunication can stem from a patient not being clear enough about their symptoms, a doctor not asking the right questions or making incorrect assumptions about a patient. Diagnostic errors also occur between two and four percent of the time due to lab results that are incorrect. Patients can also throw doctors off the mark by not reporting new information, such as not informing the doctor of new medications or stopping taking old medications and not reporting it.

Misdiagnosis can lead to major health issues for patients, and in some cases it can lead to death. If someone has been diagnosed incorrectly and harmed because of it, they may have legal options available, such as filing a personal injury lawsuit based on medical malpractice.

Source: Consumer Reports, "Mistakes even good doctors make", October 31, 2013

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