How frequently do diagnostic mistakes hurt patients?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2021 | Failure To Diagnose, Medical Malpractice |

Medical doctors perform tests and review patient information to determine the cause of their symptoms. The diagnostic process is sometimes quick, and other times it requires that the physician rule out multiple medical issues before they arrive at a conclusive diagnosis. 

Given the incredible testing and imaging technology available to modern doctors, many patients assume that diagnostic mistakes are no longer a major health concern. However, millions of Americans every year have to deal with the consequences of diagnostic mistakes.

Doctors fail to properly diagnose millions of people each year

It’s impossible to know the exact number of diagnostic errors that occur, as doctors don’t always realize their mistakes. If a patient never seeks a second opinion or dies then does not undergo an autopsy, doctors may never know that a misdiagnosis even occurred. That being said, researchers can look at cracked cases of diagnostic mistakes to learn more about their prevalence.

Researchers estimate that about 12 million people in the United States experience a diagnostic mistake each year. Such mistakes may range from unnecessary delays in diagnosis to reaching the wrong diagnosis. Somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 of the people affected by diagnostic errors will die annually. 

What causes diagnostic errors

Preventing diagnostic errors is difficult, especially because there is no one problem identified as a primary contributing factor for many diagnostic failures. Issues range from physicians not listening to their patients to ignoring or downplaying self-reported symptoms by certain patients due to prejudice.

Recognizing how frequently doctors make diagnostic errors could help you get the second opinion and possibly the medical malpractice compensation you need if you believe you have experienced a diagnostic error.