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The high incidence of diagnostic errors

Although positive strides are made and reported in relationship to many areas of medicine, North Carolina residents may be surprised to learn that little improvement has occurred in records of misdiagnosis. Issues of concern may include incidents of an incorrect diagnosis or a failure to diagnose. Various studies have explored the issue, and some experts estimate that diagnostic errors may occur in at least 10 percent of cases.

There are some challenges in following data related to diagnostic errors because physicians tend to be reluctant to report these mistakes. The culture surrounding medical practice is affected by the tendency to blame someone for a problem. Changing this culture may be important if more accurate statistical information is to become available, and this may need to occur in doctor training programs. As medical students are presented with more opportunities to understand and spot errors, the effect may be felt in the health care system as these individuals begin their own practices.

The areas in which diagnostic errors are most common have remained consistent. Cardiovascular issues, cancers and infections are commonly identified in both autopsy situations where a misdiagnosis is discovered and in physician-reported situations. Physician-reported misdiagnosis also includes a prevalent number of drug overdose or reaction situations. Some misdiagnosis situations that were once more common have decreased, including ectopic pregnancies and childhood meningitis. Pregnancy tests are easily available, and vaccines reduce susceptibility to meningitis. Meanwhile, new areas of concern include infections that have become increasingly aggressive, some of which are potentially linked to overuse of antibiotics.

An individual who may be concerned about a misdiagnosis may find that additional insight from a separate medical provider may be helpful. However, in case of a serious error that creates physical difficulties or results in extensive expenses and other losses, a patient may want to discuss details with a medical malpractice lawyer to determine whether legal action might be warranted.

Source: Med Page Today, "Misdiagnosis: Can It Be Remedied?", Joyce Frieden, August 17, 2014

Source: Med Page Today, "Misdiagnosis: Can It Be Remedied?", Joyce Frieden, August 17, 2014

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