When you go to your doctor with a problem, it feels as though your fate is in their hands. You must trust they will draw on their knowledge to determine appropriate next steps, without faltering or leading you astray. Yet the reality is, doctors frequently get it wrong.
Every year, millions of Americans leave their appointments with an inaccurate diagnosis. In some cases, these incorrect judgments are not honest mistakes, but examples of troubling malpractice.
Misdiagnosis by the numbers
There have been a number of studies and research projects over the years on the topic of misdiagnosis. Their findings help us understand the scope of the problem. One infographic compiles some of these conclusions to help paint the full picture. Among the inclusions:
- An estimated 12 million American adults are misdiagnosed annually, which amounts to about 5% of patients
- Only 12% of patients who get a second opinion see their diagnosis confirmed
- 21% of patients who go for a second opinion receive a completely different diagnosis, while 66% wind up with a “refined” diagnosis
- Nearly three out of every 10 instances of misdiagnosis are considered life-threatening or life-altering
Consequences of a misdiagnosis
A misdiagnosis can take different forms. It can include failing to identify an ailment, an incorrect diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis. While some people are fortunate and escape with few, if any, health ramifications, others pay a steeper price.
Consequences of a misdiagnosis can include:
- Having to endure unnecessary (and potentially dangerous) treatments
- Additional medical care costs
- Added physical and emotional stress
- The actual disease or ailment continuing to exist, unaddressed
It is important to remember, an incorrect diagnosis is not inherently medical malpractice. The care provider must have been negligent in some way, by failing to check for something they should have, for example, or not seeing what should have been an obvious sign. Determining whether a medical professional’s actions failed to live up to the standard of care requires some investigation.
Too many people have endured horrific ordeals or lost their lives due to clear malpractice. For victims and their loved ones, accountability for these errors is possible.