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Is first line of defense misdiagnosing at alarming rate?

The bulk of our health care often occurs in a doctor’s office or in another outpatient setting. It’s the first line of defense, where we go for preventative care or for an initial diagnosis and referral to a specialist when necessary. What happens if these physicians misdiagnose an illness or fail to diagnose a serious condition altogether?

Data covering this type of situation has focused on emergency departments and hospitals, but a recent study published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety excluded those cases. Focusing on U.S. doctor’s offices and outpatient settings, these researchers found that the problem may be as high as one misdiagnosis per 20 cases.

That means that about 12 million adults are misdiagnosed in these types of clinics each year. The problem for the lead author of this study, Dr. Hardeep Singh, is that a lot of corrective efforts are placed on the inpatient hospital care. “It’s important to outline the fact that this is a problem,” he said.

Dr. Singh went on to say in an interview with Reuters that “this is a huge vulnerability. This is a huge number and we need to do something about it.” Why? As we noted above, outpatient visits are common, and these clinics are often the first place that people turn.

Failing to diagnose an illness or misdiagnosing one at this point could mean that the patient suffers harm that could have been prevented. Have you ever heard someone say “It’s a good thing we caught this early” when they find out that they have cancer?

Proper diagnosis at the beginning matters, because the earlier the treatment often means the better the outcome. A misdiagnosis could mean that a patient suffers unnecessary treatments that are often both expensive and painful.

Each of these situations fall under the heading of medical malpractice, and a patient that has suffered harm as a result should consult with an Annapolis attorney about their legal relief options.

Source: New York Post, “Odds your doctor has misdiagnosed you? Frighteningly high,” Reuters, April 17, 2014

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Michael H. Bereston, Inc.
138 Main Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 2990
Annapolis, MD 21401

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