Possibly thought by many to be an uncommon occurrence, misdiagnosis of the existence or non-existence of a medical condition results in millions of patients being treated for a disease they don't actually have. Recent statistics confirm that misdiagnosis affects American hospitals, but to what degree is unknown:
- The American Journal of Medicine reports that 15 percent of all cases are misdiagnosed in developed countries, including the United States.
- The Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that 26 percent of medical cases were misdiagnosed.
- The Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that 44 percent of cancers are misdiagnosed.
A misdiagnosis of a serious illness like cancer means a delay in the appropriate treatment. For those who are misdiagnosed with a disease that they actually do not have, the medical mistake likely means they've undergone unnecessary and potentially harmful treatment, not to mention the emotional roller coaster that they've been mistakenly put on.
According to Evan Falchuk, vice chairman of Best Doctors, Inc., one-third of the $2.7 trillion spent each year on health care in the United States is wasted on the treatment of an incorrect diagnosis. He offers several reasons for the high number of missed diagnoses in the U.S.:
- A fragmented system. With so many moving parts involved in the testing and diagnostic process, the likelihood of error and delay is increased.
- Physician overconfidence. Doctors are often unlikely to change their mind after an initial diagnosis is made. That means unnecessary treatment and potentially missed symptoms as the undiagnosed disease progresses.
- Physician training.
- Lack of patient interaction. A visit with the doctor typically involves about 10-15 minutes actually spent with the patient. This may simply be too little time to get a full diagnostic picture.
- Specialization. A doctor may be well-trained in only a sub-part of a specific disorder and miss the bigger picture, or conversely the treating doctor may not be specialized in the specific sub-part of a patient's disease.
Regardless of the cause of a missed diagnosis, when a life-altering or life-threatening illness is not diagnosed and treated, the individual is unfairly robbed of his or her opportunity to fight back against the disease.
Source: The Seattle Times, "Misdiagnosis: Millions of patients are being treated for the wrong conditions," Evan Falchuk, April 27, 2012
Comments: Leave a comment