If anyone in the U.S. was still unaware of just how prevalent – and devastating – medical errors are nationwide, another study just reaffirmed this reality. According to a partnership between a research team from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence and one from the Risk Management Foundation of Harvard Medical Institutions Inc., roughly 800,000 individuals in the U.S. die or suffer permanent disabilities as a result of diagnostic errors alone.
More specifically, approximately 424,000 people sustain permanent disabilities and 371,000 die due to diagnostic errors in the U.S. annually. Although this translates to “only” a 0.1% chance of incurring such harm after a medical visit, that statistic is likely cold comfort to victims of disastrous diagnostic errors and their families.
The most commonly misdiagnosed conditions
In a strange way, it is a positive thing that four out of every 10 diagnostic errors that result in death or disability stems from five conditions. The silver lining in this reality is that informed patients and their loved ones can be particularly alert for signs that something is amiss with diagnostic conclusions that may inaccurately point away from one of these conditions:
- Lung cancer
- Venous thromboembolism
There are few things that are more frightening and infuriating than realizing that healthcare providers entrusted with making life-and-death diagnostic decisions are regularly making missteps that are costing people their lives. But, it is worth underscoring that being aware of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions can help patients and their loved ones better advocate for themselves in medical settings and better understand when their rights have been violated and, therefore, that their situation may be legally actionable.