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The frequency of diagnostic errors and how to address it

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2022 | Doctor Errors

Misdiagnoses affect about 12 million people annually throughout the United States. These errors result in around 40,000 to 80,000 deaths each year and additional complications and suffering when Massachusetts patients do not receive the treatment they need in a timely fashion.

Reasons for misdiagnosis

Misdiagnoses happen for a number of reasons. For example, a person who is outside the expected demographic for a particular condition might experience a delay in getting an accurate diagnosis. This can happen to women who have heart conditions since this is primarily perceived as a disease that men have. This can also be the case for young people who have a stroke since this is largely considered a problem for older people.

Improving diagnoses

Increasingly, medical professionals are calling for improvements in diagnoses, with the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine at the forefront. The SIDM has identified a number of goals for medical professionals to pursue. These include increasing funding into diagnosis research, improving education and working on a reporting system.

Barriers to diagnosis

There are systemic and cultural barriers to tracking and improving diagnoses as well. Increased collaboration between medical professionals may be one way to reduce the incidence of misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses. Technology can also help, with AI capable of analyzing far more data than humans can and providing useful data. Patients may be able to play a role by self-reporting symptoms to physicians and asking questions.

In most cases, medical professionals make the right calls. There are also conditions that take some time to diagnose because they must be identified by a process of elimination. However, when patients are aware of the possibility of misdiagnosis, they may be able to take more steps to advocate for themselves.