Although that is indeed alarming, the findings of an even more recent study present even more troublesome findings regarding misdiagnosis.
Here’s the crux of what the research team states, following its examination of several prior studies and the culling of data from about 3,000 patient records: As problematic as misdiagnosis might be in an inpatient setting, it could be a far bigger problem for patients being seen in an outpatient environment such as a doctor’s office or specialized clinic.
It’s not hard to ascertain why, given that most patients in Ohio and elsewhere are not hospitalized. Rather, they are typically seen at a facility and then leave, without being “admitted.”
That means there are high numbers of patient visits, which obviously increases the chance for a missed or faulty diagnosis. The medical researchers estimate that aboutone in every five patients seeking outpatient care — extrapolated to about 12 million adult patients annually across the country — is misdiagnosed. About half of all diagnosis mistakes, the researchers note, could potentially lead to significant patient harm.
Unfortunately, there are obvious limits on what a patient can do in the way of self-protection. The usual recommendations come readily to mind: Be mindful. Ask questions. Solicit the reasoning for a given diagnosis. Get a second opinion if it seems warranted.
The lead researcher in the recent study says that, “Measuring the problem is the first step to actually trying to fix it.” Well, now it’s measured, at least by one study team, with conclusions that are certainly eye-opening. Hopefully its findings will lead to greater scrutiny of the problem and, ultimately, fewer misdiagnosis errors in the outpatient setting.
Source: Reuters, “About 12 million U.S. outpatients misdiagnosed annually: study,” Curtis Skinner, April 17, 2014