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The risk of medical misdiagnosis

People who visit an outpatient clinic or emergency room in New York assume that they will be evaluated, diagnosed and treated by competent medical professionals. Sadly, this is not always the case. A surprising number of people in the United States leave the doctor’s office as victims of medical error. Medical misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a patient is more common that people might think. Researchers found that approximately 12 million people across the country are misdiagnosed by physicians each year. The study, which was published in BMJ Quality and Safety also reported that in half of those cases, patients were harmed as a result of the misdiagnosis.

For example, a patient seeking treatment in an emergency room for a lung condition may be diagnosed with pneumonia, when in fact, they have lung cancer. In some cases, they may be released from the hospital without a diagnosis at all. How are these mistakes made? Emergency rooms are chaotic environments, filled with a number of nurses and physicians who are all working on multiple patients at once. In addition, ER and outpatient clinic physicians may not always a full medical history of each patient they see. This can make it difficult to provide a full evaluation and diagnosis. Often times in these medical settings, doctors are rushed to see many patients in a short period of time, limiting their ability to perform a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s condition. All of these factors can lead to a misdiagnosis.

Negligent physicians may also be to blame for erroneous diagnosis. The doctor may order the wrong screening test or fail to read the test properly when evaluating a patient. Inexperience, fatigue and lack of time can also contribute to these harmful medical errors

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