The same U.S. health organization that previously determined that as many as 98,000 people in this country die each year from catastrophic medical errors in hospitals now asserts that most people will be a victim of a wrong medical diagnosis – often times with dire consequences.
The Institute of Medicine, a private, nonprofit organization, released a report in 2000 that estimated almost 100,000 Americans die from hospital mistakes annually. (A report published in 2013 said that the number of yearly U.S. deaths from medical errors could be as high as 440,000.) The organization recently released a new study, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” that focuses on one prevalent type of medical error: misdiagnosis.
Misdiagnosis Most Frequent Medical Error
There are many types of serious medical errors, including:
- Surgical errors
- Medication errors
- Mistakes in the emergency room
According to this new report, misdiagnosis is a common medical mistake. Such errors aren’t limited to hospitals. They can and do occur in all types of healthcare settings.
The Institute of Medicine concludes that most Americans likely will suffer at least one misdiagnosis in their lifetime, which could lead to severe complications, even death. The report includes one estimate that says 12 million adults receive a misdiagnosis each year. Researchers classified a misdiagnosis as a wrong diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis that can prevent the correct medical care from being provided in time or not given at all.
Despite the apparent high number of medical diagnostic errors, the researchers say not much has been done by healthcare providers to reduce them.
Why Does a Misdiagnosis Happen?
Very little research has been done on medical misdiagnosis, as there is not often a clear cut reason as to why they occur. But the Institute of Medicine’s report offers possible explanations as to how a medical misdiagnosis can happen:
- Little teamwork between healthcare providers
- A protective culture that discourages disclosure of medical errors
- Lack of feedback to healthcare providers as to the accuracy of their diagnoses
- Electronic health records, which providers don’t always know how to use
The authors of the study call on healthcare organizations to address these specific causes of incorrect medical diagnoses. They contend that misdiagnoses are likely to occur more frequently in the future.
If you or a family member were a victim of a serious medical misdiagnosis, you may want to consult with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice lawsuits to pursue your legal rights to just compensation for the catastrophic harm you suffered.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.