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Misdiagnosis: More common than some may think

Every year, millions of people across the United States visit outpatient clinics and emergency rooms in hopes of finding a diagnosis to whatever is ailing them. People put their trust in health care professionals and expect them to perform the proper screenings and tests that will alert them to the problem. Surprisingly, studies have found that 12 million Americans who are treated in these settings are misdiagnosed or are not given a diagnosis at all. This is according to a study released in BMJ Quality & Safety. In approximately six million of those cases, patients faced potential harm because of the misdiagnosis. Wrongful diagnosis can lead to a myriad of injuries, including those that may harm a pregnancy or cause birth injuries. Why are doctors misdiagnosing patients at such an alarming rate?

One cause of medical misdiagnosis may be due to the chaotic environment and limited amount of time doctors spend with each patient. In some cases, outpatient physicians see patients who are not established at the clinic. Patients who fail to give doctors a complete medical history, including their pregnancy information, may have an increased risk of being misdiagnosed. Further causes of misdiagnosis include miscommunication between health care professionals, doctors ordering the wrong diagnostic tests and mistakes made by physicians when reading test results.

In order to minimize the risk of misdiagnosis and the risk of birth injuries, patients should always give doctors a complete medical history. Patients should ask a lot of questions and be persistent when pursuing a diagnosis. Finally, it may be wise to get a second opinion if patients feel as though they were not given a proper diagnosis, or if they still feel unwell after following the treatment given by the doctor.