You will generally go to see a doctor for one of two reasons. You need help figuring out what is wrong with you, or you need treatment for an obvious issue. Diagnosis won’t be a major concern if you have a broken arm from a fall down the stairs. You know exactly what injury you suffered and how it occurred.
Other times, diagnosis is as important as getting treatment. If you have a cough, a rash or other symptoms, like chronic pain, it may take more effort and time to figure out what causes those symptoms.
You trust that your doctor will properly diagnose you and refer you to the right treatment. Unfortunately, a surprising number of medical patients will have a poor outcome because of diagnostic mistakes by their doctors.
What are the risks of experiencing a diagnostic mistake?
It can be hard to quantify diagnostic errors because they require that the patient or someone else discovered the mistake. Countless people may have died without anyone ever realizing that a doctor could have prevented their death with an accurate diagnosis and the right medical treatment. However, the statistics about a misdiagnosis or failed diagnosis are concerning.
Research published in an Ivy-League publication discusses a long-term review of diagnostic mistakes. They found that 17% of all medical mistakes for those in the hospital involved misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Even worse, a review of autopsies of those who died after treatment found that roughly 9% of those patients were the victims of a substantial diagnostic error that doctors didn’t even realize before their deaths.
What happens after a failed diagnosis?
Some people will have to continue making complaints and seeing their doctor until they eventually arrive at the correct diagnosis. Others may require a second opinion from someone else or may have to suffer some kind of a medical emergency before they receive the right diagnosis.
A patient could have lasting medical consequences from not receiving the right treatment or from receiving the wrong kind of care. In some cases, their chances of recovery or survival will go down substantially because of the delay or mistake in diagnosis.
Recognizing how common diagnostic errors are will make it easier for you to take action if you suffer the consequences of medical malpractice.