How Common Is Misdiagnosis or Missed Diagnosis?

July 27, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

It’s a troubling truth. All too often, patients find that their medical condition was misdiagnosed.

You may know someone who’s experienced it. Maybe it was you. In some instances, the error is not serious and there are no long-term ramifications. In other cases, the outcome is life-threatening at best, deadly at worst.

Should you find yourself a victim of misdiagnosis or some other form of medical malpractice, know that you have a formidable ally in Bertram & Murphy. Our firm is proud of the service we provide to Washingtonians and to military families around the world who need it. Contact us for a free case analysis with no obligation.

What Exactly is Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis is defined as an incorrect diagnosis of an illness or condition. It’s a wrong conclusion about a disease – a decision that a patient has or doesn’t have a particular illness or condition, when in fact they have a different one or none at all.

Every day, people put their health into the hands of medical professionals. Their life hangs in the balance. In most instances, procedures are executed with precision, medical judgment is on target, and the patient leaves in better condition and with hope for a full recovery. These health care professionals and the facilities in which they practice are said to have met the standard of care.

However, when something goes wrong, patients can be left with horrific injuries that could haunt them for the rest of their lives – or even prove fatal. Representing patients who’ve been harmed in such manner is what we at Bertram & Murphy do best. We stake our reputation on it.

Misdiagnosis Statistics and Facts

Unfortunately, misdiagnosis occurs more often than one might expect. AARP cites a Mayo Clinic study that reveals only 12% of patients seeking second opinions from the Mayo Clinic were correctly diagnosed by their primary care providers. More than 20% had been misdiagnosed, while 66% required some changes to their initial diagnoses.

The 286 patients in the study ranged in age from 15 to 80-plus, with 64% younger than 64. Their cases were evaluated by a Mayo Clinic internal medicine group that specializes in uncertain diagnoses. The diagnoses were based on face-to-face meetings between physicians and patients, as well as a review of medical records, the study noted.

Among outpatients (those who don’t require an overnight hospital stay) about 5% experience diagnosis errors. MDLinx, an internet-based service that summarizes medical literature for providers, found similar misdiagnosis statistics. Some estimates peg misdiagnoses among 12 million Americans, or 1 in every 20 patients, each year. This is despite the existence of numerous fail-safe systems in place to prevent errors.

Are Certain Demographic Groups at Greater Risk?

Interestingly, the chance of experiencing misdiagnosis is greater for women and minorities. Healthline data indicates that these groups are 20 – 30% more likely to be misdiagnosed.

Which Diagnoses Are Most Likely to Be Misdiagnosed?

A study by MDLinx indicates that some conditions are most likely to be misdiagnosed:

  • Stroke
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Systemic lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Various forms of cancer, heart attacks (especially in women), appendicitis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and pulmonary embolism are among other commonly misdiagnosed conditions.

How Deadly Are Misdiagnoses?

A recent Healthline study shows that 40,500 people who enter an intensive care unit annually will fall victim to a misdiagnosis that costs them their lives. As many as 80,000 patients a year die from complications related to misdiagnoses.

Even if it doesn’t prove fatal, misdiagnosis can have serious consequences on a person’s health. It can delay recovery and sometimes call for a treatment that’s harmful. In addition, it can be costly for the patient, the provider, and the facility in which the care was provided.

Common Reasons for Misdiagnoses

Tackling this widespread dilemma is difficult. Instances of misdiagnosis often fall into three general categories:

  • Human mistakes
  • Adhering to out-of-date procedures for diagnosing and treating conditions that are traditional but flawed
  • Reluctance to adapt to shifts in techniques and innovations that are constantly changing how health care is delivered

What to Do If You Have Been Misdiagnosed

Although the burden largely falls on providers, patients have a role to play, too. You need to pay close attention to your symptoms. Make sure to tell your doctor everything. Watch for clues that your diagnosis might not be quite right.

These telltale signs include:

  • The symptoms you have are common with more than one condition.
  • Your talk with the doctor was not complete.
  • Your doctor didn’t use all the available diagnostic tools.
  • A second opinion differs from the first.
  • Your medicine isn’t working.

When to Ask for a Second Opinion

You always have the right to get a second opinion. You might not feel confident or comfortable with the first doctor’s diagnosis. Or, you might just want to confirm it. This is a common practice. You shouldn’t worry about “insulting” your doctor.

Sometimes, the second doctor will have a different viewpoint. The doctor might see something that the first doctor did not, especially if the second doctor is a specialist. A second opinion that doesn’t match up with the first may be a sign of misdiagnosis. You might even want to get a third opinion. That may be a wise move if the treatment that’s been suggested to you carries many risks.

“Diagnosis is extremely hard,” Mark L. Graber, a senior fellow at the research institute RTI International and the founder of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, told the Washington Post.

“There are 10,000 diseases and only 200 to 300 symptoms.”

Not all patients require second opinions, but referring them to specialists to confirm the diagnoses can protect the patients’ health and result in cost savings, the researchers wrote. Unfortunately, some health insurers — in order to hold down costs — won’t cover second opinions from experts outside their networks.

“A potential unintended consequence of [this] limited access is misdiagnosed resulting in treatment delays, complications leading to more costly treatments and even patient harm or death,” the authors said.

Or, as Graber told the Post, “If you are given a serious diagnosis, or you’re not responding the way you should [to medication], a second opinion is a very good idea. Fresh eyes catch mistakes.”

When You Should Talk to a Misdiagnosis Attorney in Washington, D.C

Sometimes, the standard of care isn’t met by providers. As a result, the patient may be left with devastating injuries that can make it difficult to work, take care of family, or even to perform activities of daily living such as bathing or driving. Some victims die.

If you’ve suffered harm as a result of misdiagnosis or some form of medical negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation to help you balance the physical and economic damages you have experienced.

At Bertram & Murphy, we understand the unique challenges victims of medical malpractice face. You might be struggling to pay your medical bills after being forced to take time off from work. You might be having trouble finding specialists to care for your injuries. Your injuries might also require future long-term care. You are likely suffering significant pain and mental distress.

In D.C. and the surrounding area, turn to Bertram & Murphy. Mindful of just how important health is to our clients’ life, we advocate on their behalf aggressively for full and fair compensation. Depending on the facts of your claim, you may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages, like the cost of your past and future treatment, compensation for the work you missed, and an amount to represent your pain and suffering.

Don’t wait. There are deadlines to file the claims in order to protect your rights and to preserve the evidence. It’s better to act as soon as you can. Contact us by phone or online to schedule your free and 100% confidential consultation.

  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • U.S. News Best Law Firms
  • AV Preeminent
  • American Association for Justice
  • Washingtonian Best Lawyer
  • Super Lawyers
  • Best Lawyers 2024
  • Best Lawyers 2023
  • Daily Record-The 2022 Powerlist, Personal Injury & Medical Malpractice.
  • Best Lawyers 2022
  • AAJ Leaders Forum
  • Best Lawyers 2021