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How common are diagnostic errors?

When patients in New Jersey and elsewhere are not feeling well, their first thought is usually to see the doctor. Medical professionals are equipped with the education, experience, skills and tools necessary to determine what is wrong and what the best course of treatment is. This is true when medical professionals follow the proper steps and take the time to ensure accuracy and proficiency in their profession.

Medical errors can occur for a wide variety of reasons, one of them being misdiagnosis. It is estimated that roughly 12 million Americans suffer from a misdiagnosis each year. A misdiagnosis could occur for one of three reasons. First, the medical professional could see the medical condition as something entirely different than what it is. Next, the doctor could completely miss the signs of the ailment, failing to diagnose a patient at all or presuming it is a minor illness that requires no treatment. Finally, a patient could be diagnosed too late because he or she was never diagnosed or was diagnosed with something wrong initially.

Diagnostic errors do not go hand-in-hand with rare diseases. While these do occur in events with rare diseases, research shows that they are with more common illnesses and conditions. Additionally, roughly one-third of misdiagnoses have serious and even fatal results.

While medical professionals and hospitals aim to reduce these events, patients still suffer from these serious events. Patients harmed by a diagnostic error are likely to suffer from worsened conditions because their condition was not timely diagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Additionally, patients could suffer additional medical problems because of a wrong diagnosis leading to the wrong treatment plan.

When a patient believes that he or she is a victim of misdiagnosis, it is important that they understand how to assert their rights as a patient. This could mean taking legal action by filing a medical malpractice action. This could help hold a medical professional accountable and assist with the recovery of compensation for his or her losses and damages.

Source: Wypr.org, "Medical Misdiagnosis: More Common Than You Think," Sheilah Kast, Oct. 31, 2017

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