Misdiagnoses, or diagnoses that were incorrect or delayed, account for 10-20% of medical malpractice cases. While issues such as anesthesia and surgical errors have gained far more media attention, they occur less frequently than misdiagnosis, which can be equally detrimental to the patient involved.
Statistics on Misdiagnosis Cases
A misdiagnosis is more than just an inconvenience to the patient, but the unfortunate truth is that many patients are told to downplay their injury and pain after their condition was misdiagnosed. A misdiagnosis can not only lead to longer treatment time, but it can substantially increase a patient’s medical bills, further complicate their condition, and even lead to death.
The Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded a 2009 report on misdiagnosis cases. Here are a few of the statistics that came from their report:
- 28% of 583 diagnostic mistakes were life-threatening or had resulted in death or permanent disability
- Out of 583 cases under consideration, 28% were considered major, 41% were considered moderate, and 31% were considered minor or insignificant.
- The most common misdiagnoses were pulmonary embolism (4.5%), drug reactions or overdose (4.5%), lung cancer (3.9%), colorectal cancer (3.3%), acute coronary syndrome (3.1%), breast cancer (3.1%), and stroke (2.6%).
- Errors occurred most frequently in the testing phase (44%), followed by clinician assessment errors (32%), history taking (10%), physical examination (10%), and referral or consultation errors (3%).
This last statistic is interesting, because it shows that the majority of the cases that resulted in misdiagnosis were directly impacted by the doctor or nurse assisting the patient. Less than 3% of misdiagnoses were credited to the medical staff receiving the wrong information.