When people go to their physician with a problem or symptom, they do so with the expectation that they will receive a proper and correct diagnosis, and appropriate treatment to follow. But according to a recent study, misdiagnosis is a common problem that has led to significant injury to patients. Of even greater concern is the fact that the study may not present a complete picture of the extent of the problem within the medical field.

The study was conducted by researchers at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine and was recently published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety. The group pulled over 3,000 medical records in order to determine what the incidence of diagnostic errors was in patients who had been treated in private physicians’ offices and in clinics. The results indicated that of the 12 million patients seen in U.S. doctors’ offices each year, approximately five percent, or 600,000 people are misdiagnosed.

As alarming as these figures are, they become even more so when interpreted in light of the fact that it does not include the misdiagnosis rate that takes place in inpatient settings. Though it is true that most patients are seen in clinics and offices, there are very few studies that have looked at the rate of misdiagnosis prior to this one. There is also a strong sense that because the group relied upon medical records provided by the offices (which may have been subject to irregular record keeping) the five percent that the group determined could be much lower than what is actually the case.

Misdiagnosing a medical condition, or failing to make a diagnosis can lead to serious harm. If a patient sees their physician for symptoms of cancer that the physician does not properly diagnose, the cancer goes untreated for an unknown period of time and puts the patients’ survival rate in jeopardy, or may mean that once they are properly diagnosed they will require more aggressive treatment. Patients who are diagnosed with illnesses that they do not have could end up being medicated inappropriately, or may even undergo surgery or other invasive treatments for conditions that they do not have. The group’s analysis of medical records yielded an estimate of approximately fifty percent of cases of misdiagnoses that ended in some kind of harm for the patients involved.

The Baylor study is valuable for having raised awareness of the issue among those in the medical field, as well as among patients. Unfortunately, far too often patients who are harmed as a result of a misdiagnosis from their physician may end up in significant harm that can have a long-term effect on well being. If you believe that the misdiagnosis of a medical condition as led to an injury or in some other ill effect, it may be appropriate for you to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in order to receive compensation for the damages that you’ve suffered. Call the Philadelphia law firm of Bochetto & Lentz to set up a convenient time for a consultation regarding your case.

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