People often associate the phrase “medical malpractice” with gross negligence during a major surgery or other potentially invasive procedure. However, the adverse results for patients can be just as severe when health care providers fail to make a correct diagnosis at all.
According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, every year missed or delayed diagnoses cause either death or permanent disability for over 100,000 Americans. University researchers have also found that only three broad categories of disease make up the majority of misdiagnosis cases.
Misdiagnosis remains a major factor in the death of U.S. patients
According to Johns Hopkins research, misdiagnosis factors into between 40,000 and 80,000 fatalities in U.S. hospitals each year. For another 80,000 to 160,000 patients annually, misdiagnosis may lead to serious and lasting physical harm.
The “big three” conditions
The scientists at Johns Hopkins concluded that three broad conditions account for most serious misdiagnosis cases: cancer (37%), vascular issues (22%) and infections (13%).
These “big three” conditions were contributing factors in almost 75% of misdiagnosis cases involving severe harm to the patient. Specific conditions related to these three categories include:
- Breast, prostate, lung and skin cancers
- Stroke, heart attack, endocarditis, aortic aneurysm and venous thromboembolism
- Sepsis, meningitis, encephalitis and spinal infections
Unfortunately, the Johns Hopkins study also determined that poor judgment on the part of health care providers was the most common reason for misdiagnosis, accounting for more than 85% of faulty diagnosis cases.
When physicians fail to provide an informed and timely diagnosis, the results can easily be fatal for patients suffering from aggressive disease. Individuals and their families should know that the law may hold health care providers responsible if medical negligence leads to unnecessary suffering.