Patient Safety News: Doctors misdiagnose one in five patients with serious conditions

More than one out of five patients with serious health conditions in the U.S. are misdiagnosed, according to new research.

The Washington Post featured an article about the study conducted by the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, which raises serious concerns about the impact of diagnostic errors.

The researchers looked at the cases of nearly 300 patients who came to the Mayo Clinic after having received an initial diagnosis elsewhere from primary care physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.

The results showed that 21 percent of the patients received diagnoses at Mayo that were “distinctly different” than their initial diagnoses. For 12 percent of the patients, the diagnoses were the same. And for the remaining 67 percent, the initial and secondary diagnoses were partly in line with one another.

“Diagnostic error is an area where we need more research, more study and more information,” James M. Naessens, a professor of health services research at the Mayo Clinic, told the Post.

Berman & Simmons is the leading law firm in Maine for people who have been harmed by medical errors and hospital mistakes, including missed or incorrect diagnoses.

The Journal of Patient Safety recently reported that as many as 440,000 Americans die each year because of medical errors, and thousands more are seriously injured. That study ranked medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind only heart disease and cancer.

Additional research cited in the Post article indicates that most people will receive an incorrect or late diagnosis at least once in their lives, “sometimes with serious consequences.”

“According to previous research cited in the new study, diagnostic errors ‘contribute to approximately 10 percent of patient deaths’ and ‘account for 6 to 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals’,” the newspaper reported.