According to the results of a new study, approximately 12 Million Americans receive incorrect diagnoses every year. Having concrete statistics such as this may help to garner awareness and action to resolve this public health problem. In the past, statistics have been difficult to gather due to the nature of misdiagnosis, the inconsistency in the definition of misdiagnosis, and the controversy surrounding many cases. This study marks a breakthrough for assessing the true magnitude of the misdiagnosis problem in America.
Revolutionary Misdiagnosis Study
The misdiagnosis study was lead by Dr. Hardeep Singh, who was recently awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Obama. Singh, a researcher for the Veterans Affairs Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness, and Safety in Houston, Texas, used his own research team to conduct the study, which lent a more consistent definition of misdiagnosis. For the study, Singh and his associates compiled and reviewed data from three previous studies that had been conducted in clinic or emergency room settings.
Information Used for the Study
Two of the studies examined during the analysis utilized electronic triggers to spot patterns of return visits by patients that had symptoms indicative of colorectal cancer in the primary visit. Most patients received little to no follow-up care between the primary visit and secondary visits at which the proper diagnosis was determined. The third study examined lung cancer misdiagnoses. In many of the cases, it was determined that the physician should have been able to make a diagnosis at the primary visit based on available information.
Results of the Study
Singh’s findings were published on April 16, 2014 in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety. The results of the analysis indicated that 5.08 percent of patients from the three combined studies were misdiagnosed at the first visit. Based on these results, Singh estimates that about one in every 20 Americans that seeks medical assistance in a clinic or emergency room receives an incorrect diagnosis, although it is possible that this is an underestimation. It is also estimated that about half of these errors are harmful to patients, allowing delays in treatment or improper treatment that may cause conditions to worsen.
Effect on Future Healthcare
Singh and his team are hopeful that the findings will prompt healthcare facilities to develop systems for tracking and reducing the number of misdiagnoses. Singh also hopes that the findings will alert patients to the danger of blindly accepting results. If patients take a more active role in requesting follow-up care and being certain that all symptoms and medical history information are available to physicians at primary visits, Singh believes that the incidence of misdiagnosis will be drastically reduced.