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The problem of diagnostic errors in the U.S.

Every day, countless people in Massachusetts seek care, treatment and advice from health care professionals. However, when the information they receive is not accurate, their current or future health may be at risk. Among the many types of errors that can be made by doctors are those involving the diagnosis of conditions.

A study by the Institute of Medicine indicates that these types of mistakes happen every day around the country in hospitals, clinics and more. The study alleged that most people could be impacted by at least one diagnostic mistake over the course of their lives.

Diagnostic errors are reported to be involved in the following:

  • 10 percent of patient fatalities.
  • 17 out of every 100 adverse events in hospitals.
  • Cases involving 1 out of every 20 people receiving outpatient care.
  • More paid claims of medical malpractice than any other form of medical error.

In addition, errors with diagnosis are believed to have a 200 percent greater chance of resulting in death than other errors like those involving medications, surgeries and more.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, diagnostic errors come in three forms. One is the complete omission of a diagnosis, essentially telling a person that nothing is wrong when in fact something is. This may lead a person to fail to obtain necessary treatment. Another is when an incorrect diagnosis is given. This may result in the wrong treatment being administered which may not only fail to address the real problem but may also cause additional problems. Finally, a diagnosis that is not discovered in a timely manner can leave patients vulnerable by making them wait too long to start appropriate treatment.

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