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Uh-oh! One in every 20 adults seeking medical care walks away misdiagnosed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/17/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12 million Americans can leave their doctor with serious conditions left untreated

If you're diligent and go to your doctor regularly - you still may not be getting a clean bill of health. According to a new study, one in 20 Americans who see their doctor may walk away having their condition misdiagnosed. Twelve million Americans a year could be affected by these errors.

In little more than five percent of cases, the original diagnosis was wrong and could have been accurately detected by the information available in the first setting.

In little more than five percent of cases, the original diagnosis was wrong and could have been accurately detected by the information available in the first setting.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/17/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Misdiagnosis, five percent, patients, cancer


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Of these cases, about six million could potentially be harmful. Patient safety expert Dr. Hardeep Singh says that this means patients with conditions as varied as heart failure, pneumonia, and anemia and lung cancer could have serious problems that remain unrecognized by a doctor.

"What we say is, was there a missed opportunity? Was there some kind of a red flag?" Singh, a researcher at the Veterans Affairs Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety says.

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According to the study, published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, quantifying such errors has been difficult as researchers don't all use the same definition for mistakes. It's also hard to track cases across multiple providers over time.

Singh won the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Barack Obama for his work on missed diagnoses and patient safety.

Singh and his colleagues used data from three previous studies that focused on unusual patterns of return visits after primary care visits, such as the lack of follow-up for abnormal findings related to colorectal cancer and consecutive cases of lung cancer.

Based upon electronic "triggers" of errors in records at two large health care systems in 2006-2007, the definitions were consistent and allowed for precise analysis and estimates.

In little more than five percent of cases, the original diagnosis was wrong and could have been accurately detected by the information available in the first setting.

"It is surprising - five percent," Singh said. "Yet on the other hand, this evidence has been coming together."

Dr. Gordon Schiff, a patient safety expert at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says he thinks Singh's study probably underestimates the actual scope of diagnostic errors.

"I think it does give us a good a hard number. Previously, we had softer numbers," he said. "But the numbers probably overlook other error activity. I would say this is a minimum."

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