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Prevalence of misdiagnosis threatens every patient in the U.S.

Of the many types of medical errors that have made headlines in the U.S. including in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose is considered the most common type. Despite its frequentness, it is an error that can result in severe consequences for a patient.

Every treatment, medication and medical procedure received by a patient should be based on a doctor's diagnosis. Because of this, a simple error in diagnosis can harm a patient in many ways. When the misdiagnosis occurs, a patient may start taking medications that can do more harm than good. It can also cause a great deal of stress for an individual, particularly if it is a cancer misdiagnosis.

In fact, a misdiagnosis nowadays is becoming more common in the healthcare industry. According to a source, between 10 and 20 percent of patients are often misdiagnosed. These cases may range from surgery on the wrong patient or the wrong body part to drug errors. In one report, it was found that 28 percent of misdiagnosed cases had lead to permanent disability or death. Another study reported that the number of fatal misdiagnoses in the country is equivalent to the number of women who die of breast cancer each year.

A Harvard University study discovered that diagnostic errors are responsible for 14 percent of all adverse events in hospitals. Of these, 75 percent resulted from negligence. Unfortunately, the doctors who are guilty of a misdiagnosis are often not even aware of their error until the patient suffers health complications.

Additionally, fixing a misdiagnosis can be challenging. Although there have been reports that failure to diagnose incidents are the primary cause of medical malpractice claims, a vast number of these incidents do not lead to legal action. Many misdiagnosis cases go unreported which prevents many patients and their families from finding out about the doctor error that may endanger their lives.

Source: NCPA, "Physicians Misdiagnose at an Alarming Rate," accessed Sept. 16, 2014

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