05/19/14   |   By

Could 12 Million People Be Really Misdiagnosed Every Single Year? | DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog

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A very alarming new study puts DC medical malpractice cases — and indeed, the entire issue of malpractice — in a disturbing new light.

Researchers at Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, publishing in BMJ’s Quality and Safety Journal, suggest that one out of 20 Americans every year gets misdiagnosed by a physician. That means that doctors misdiagnose 12 million Americans every year.

Fortunately, most of these misdiagnoses likely do not result in serious injury or death. But that is still a staggering number, and if it’s even remotely accurate, it should set off alarm bells throughout the medical care system and instigate process improvements ASAP.

The researchers concluded that up to 50 percent of the errors in diagnoses could lead to major harm (not that they necessarily DO, fortunately). They wrote that their analysis “should provide a foundation for policyholders, healthcare organization, and researchers to strengthen efforts to measure and reduce diagnostic efforts.”

Traditionally, it has been challenging to identify misdiagnosis statistics outside of hospital and clinical settings. In this study, researchers examined hundreds of patient medical records as well as records of clinical doctor visits, and they then made estimates based on these data and extrapolated their conclusions to the population at large.

Obviously, this study has its limitations. For instance, perhaps the sample that they analyzed was just unlucky; and they endured many more misdiagnoses than typically happen to the patient population. Or perhaps the methodology was somehow flawed or the statistics used to measure and compare patient groups were not accurate or appropriate.

Most Costly Errors?

The researchers noted that “delayed cancer diagnoses is believed to be one of the most harmful and costly types of diagnostic care in the outpatient setting,” especially since early treatment can save lives for patients who develop some cancers and progressive, chronic diseases.

Whether the study accurately gauged the “true” number of misdiagnoses or not, many patients (and families of patients) don’t understand their rights or possible means of recourse after a misdiagnosis-related injury or illness.

The team here at Regan, Zambri & Long can help you understand your legal options. Our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys are standing by to provide a free and confidential case evaluation at (202) 463-3030. Call or email us now for sound insight.

Regan Zambri Long
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