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Medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose

When patients go into the emergency room or outpatient clinic, they are often stressed, in pain and/or suffering from an unknown condition. People go in searching for medical assistance from trusted health care professionals and may not receive the proper diagnosis as to what is wrong. In some cases, people may not receive a diagnosis at all, even though they have a critical condition that could affect their wellbeing.

Medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose patients in more common than many people may think. A study published in BMJ Quality & Safety reported that one in 20 adult patients who seek treatment at an ER or outpatient clinic are victims of diagnostic errors. In at least half of the 12 million cases, patients were seriously harmed because of the misdiagnosis.

Some of the reasons thought to contribute to this problem are the chaotic environments where patients may be seen by more than one professional. Furthermore, doctors may not have the complete medical history of the patients in these types of settings. Physicians may be rushed to see a number of patients in a short period of time, and may inadvertently order the wrong type of test or may misread the results of the test.

When patients are misdiagnosed, they may be forced to undergo expensive and/or painful treatment that they may not need. They may take unnecessary medication that could lead to harmful side effects. While the wrong condition is being treated, the actual condition may worsen to a point where it is harder to control.

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