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Study points out prevalence of misdiagnosis in outpatient setting

People who are frequent readers of our blog know that misdiagnosis is a common occurrence in hospitals and health care facilities across the nation. Unfortunately, there is no statistical data at this time that can tell us how prevalent it is, especially in an outpatient setting. That is until now.

That’s because a research team recently looked at a pool of roughly 3,000 medical records and tried to answer the question: how often do diagnostic errors occur in an outpatient settings? Although they know that there may be potential flaws in their research because of missing records or unreported cases, the findings so far show that there is a problem that has yet to be addressed in the health care system.

According to their findings, about one in 20 patients are misdiagnosed every year in states across the nation. This equates to approximately 12 million Americans. But because efforts to improve health care have mostly been focused on inpatient care, little has been done in the last few years to correct the problem.

Although it’s known that not every misdiagnosis is harmful and leads to a medical malpractice claim, it’s worth noting that many do. In some cases, an error has resulted in a delayed diagnosis for an illness or disease that has required extensive attention. In these cases, patients may not have received timely treatments and have suffered permanent injuries or even death as a result. In other cases, a misdiagnosis has led to unnecessary treatments or surgeries that have ended up doing more harm than good.

Because it’s just as important to provide an excellent standard of care in both inpatient and outpatient settings, many doctors feel that more needs to be done to address and correct this issue. Because as we often say: no one should have to suffer because of someone else’s negligence.

Source: Reuters, “About 12 million U.S. outpatients misdiagnosed annually: study,” Curtis Skinner, April 17, 2014

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