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Rate of misdiagnosis in the U.S. is staggering

A new study confirms what many patient safety advocates have long suspected. Texas-based researchers have determined that approximately one out of every 20 American adults is given a misdiagnosis in an outpatient setting on an annual basis. This statistic translates to approximately 12 million American adults misdiagnosed in outpatient facilities annually.

This statistic is unsettling enough when examined alone. However, the researchers’ additional conclusion that approximately half of all outpatient misdiagnosis errors could potentially result in serious patient harm is uniquely startling.

If a relatively healthy individual is misdiagnosed with a single ear infection as opposed to his or her true condition of a double ear infection, this misdiagnosis will not likely affect the patient gravely or for long. However, when cancer, heart attacks, strokes and other serious conditions are misdiagnosed, the consequences of those errors can be debilitating and even lethal.

In addition, it is important to note that while one in 20 American adults are misdiagnosed in outpatient settings annually, additional patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities also suffer from unacceptably high rates of misdiagnosis. Combining outpatient misdiagnosis rates with inpatient misdiagnosis rates truly gives the public a sense of the scope of this issue.

The rate of misdiagnosis in the U.S. is so widespread as to be completely unacceptable. If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of misdiagnosis, please consult an attorney to explore your legal options. And please consider sharing your story with lawmakers and patient safety advocates. It is imperative that individuals in a position to change this situation hear as many personal stories about misdiagnosis as it takes to begin reversing this devastating trend.

Source: Reuters.com, “About 12 million U.S. outpatients misdiagnosed annually –study,” Curtis Skinner, April 17, 2014

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