CHICAGO, IL – A recent study published by JAMA Network Open shows the top ten most missed medical diagnoses. After combing through data from patient safety incident reports, malpractice claims, morbidity and mortality rounds, and focus group responses, researchers found nearly 840 diagnostic errors used to identify the most common or delayed diagnoses.
Nearly 12 million American adults are misdiagnosed each year in outpatient settings which equates to nearly 5 percent of patients, though experts say this number is likely higher. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine states that most people will experienced a missed or delayed diagnosis in their lifetime, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.
What are the top 10 most common missed or delayed diagnosis by medical condition?
- Colorectal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Breast cancer
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Prostate cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Plmonary embolism
- Brain hemorrhage
How to diagnostic errors occur?
There are a number of reasons that diagnostic errors can occur including a miscommunication between the doctor and the patient. The patent may fail to accurately describe their symptoms, or the doctor may overlook something in the patient’s medical history. In other circumstances, the incorrect test can be ordered or read incorrectly. Data in electronic medical records are often disorganized and sometimes referrals aren’t followed up on.
A patient can also present with atypical symptoms. For example, if a person enters the emergency room and explains stroke-like symptoms including weakness on one side of their body, this is rarely missed; however, if someone mentioned they were dizzy, nearly 40% of doctors miss that this is a myriad of causes – stroke being one of them.
Not every missed diagnosis is fatal to a patient’s long-term health. Back pain may be misdiagnoses as a muscle strain when it’s really osteoarthritis. In other events, infections and cancer tend to be diseases where if you miss them, the consequences for the patient can be devastating and life altering
How can patients help prevent a misdiagnosis?
Make sure that you prepare for your appointments. Think of some of the symptoms and concerns you have before entering the doctor’s office. If it helps, write it down so you don’t forget! It’s important to make note of the onset of your symptoms and your pain level. The more detail you provide to your doctor, the more time they’re able to think about the problem and less time gathering information.
It’s also important to ask questions and advocate for yourself. You should know why certain conditions are being ruled out. If you tell your doctor you’re experiencing frequent headaches and they diagnosis you with cluster headaches, make sure to ask why it’s not a migraine.
Finally, make sure you follow up with your doctor if your condition doesn’t improve. Patients’ voices are extremely important in the diagnostic process. Make sure to keep a track record of test results, referrals, and hospital admissions.
When to get a second opinion
If your condition doesn’t get better or you’re suspicious of a diagnosis and want to confirm it, you should consider getting a second opinion from another physician, or a specialist. Nearly 20% of people who seek a second opinion receive a different diagnosis from the first, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Make sure to bring all necessary documentation to your important, including details from your previous diagnosis which should include test results and recommended treatment plans.