While people generally think of major surgical errors when they hear the phrase “medical malpractice,” a missed diagnosis or a mistaken diagnosis can prove equally fatal for some patients.
Research suggests that every year over 100,000 U.S. patients die or experience permanent disability due to a missed or delayed diagnosis. A recent study at Johns Hopkins University has found that three broad conditions make up the majority of misdiagnosis cases.
Misdiagnosis statistics to know
The Johns Hopkins study suggests that misdiagnosis is a factor in 40,000 to 80,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals annually. Each year, an additional 80,000 to 160,000 patients may experience serious harm due to misdiagnosis.
The “big three” conditions
The research team found that three conditions seem to account for the majority of serious cases of misdiagnosis: infections (13%), vascular events (22%) and cancers (37%). Researchers found that these “big three” conditions are present in nearly three in four misdiagnosis cases that result in serious harm to the patient. Specific conditions commonly associated with misdiagnosis include:
- Lung, breast, prostate and skin cancer
- Endocarditis, stroke, venous thromboembolism, aortic aneurysm and heart attack
- Encephalitis, meningitis, spinal infection and sepsis
Misdiagnosis and doctor error
The Johns Hopkins study also found that faulty judgment on the part of clinical providers is by far the most common cause of misdiagnosis, accounting for over 85% of cases.
Whether due to a failure to order necessary tests or a lack of communication between general physicians and specialists, too often a diagnostic oversight results in serious harm to patient health. Patients and loved ones who have experienced harm due to a missed, delayed or mistaken diagnosis should know that the law may entitle them to the compensation they need to cope with the damage done.