New study finds high rate of misdiagnosis in US

A recent study found that about 12 million Americans are affected by misdiagnoses made in outpatient visits each year.

If you think you may have found a lump or you are suffering from other unexplained medical issues, the first step you will likely take is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Once the doctor provides a diagnosis, you will likely assume the physician is correct in his or her assessment and proceed with the recommended course of treatment.

Unfortunately, doctors make mistakes and misdiagnose their patients. According to a new study, these misdiagnoses actually occur with alarming frequency in the United States.

The study — published in BMJ Quality and Safety — found that approximately 12 million adults who visit their doctor on an outpatient basis are misdiagnosed every year. Of those, the researchers estimated that 50 percent — or about 6 million individuals — suffer harm as a result of the misdiagnosis.

In some cases, the harm may be caused by a physician who misses a serious illness. For instance, when a patient's doctor fails to diagnose cancer, treatment is delayed, which can have devastating effects. In other cases, however, doctors may diagnose an illness from which the patient does not actually suffer. In those situations, patients may receive treatment that they do not need, which can cause harm.

Protect yourself from an outpatient misdiagnosis

The responsibility of accurately diagnosing an illness lies in the hands of the medical professional. When you go to an outpatient doctor's appointment, however, you can be proactive to attempt to prevent a physician from misdiagnosing an illness.

First, always act as an advocate for yourself. Often, doctors' schedules are packed with patients, leaving them little time to discuss your concerns during your appointment. Make sure your doctor does not end the appointment before all of your questions have been addressed.

Among the symptoms most frequently misdiagnosed include:

  • Coughing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath

If you are suffering from these symptoms and are not satisfied with your doctor's diagnosis, ask how he or she came to the conclusion about the cause of your medical problems.

In addition, patients should attempt to provide a complete medical history to their physician and should write down any questions they have in advance.

Patients should not be afraid to obtain a second opinion, particularly if they have concerns about their doctor's diagnosis.

If you have suffered due to a physician's misdiagnosis, you should take steps to protect your rights to recovery. Following such situations, seeking the advice of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney will ensure you interests are safeguarded.

Keywords: misdiagnosis, doctor, error