When it comes to many types of illness, receiving a timely and accurate diagnosis can easily mean the difference between a patient’s life or death. Unfortunately, too often doctors or other health care providers fail to correctly identify symptoms, potentially delaying needed treatments until a condition has progressed too far.
Recent research by Johns Hopkins has found that there are three broad categories of disease that make up the overwhelming majority of misdiagnosis cases.
The “big three” conditions
Dubbed the “big three”, researchers found that a handful of conditions are present in nearly 75% of all misdiagnosis cases resulting in serious patient harm. The three major categories include cancers (37.8%), vascular events (22.8%) and infections (13.5%). Specific conditions that often involve diagnostic error include:
- Prostate, breast, lung and skin cancers
- Heart attack, stroke, aortic aneurysm, venous thromboembolism and endocarditis
- Sepsis, meningitis, encephalitis and spinal infections
Misdiagnosis statistics to know
The Johns Hopkins study found that, annually, more than 100,000 patients in the U.S. experience either permanent disability or death due to delayed or mistaken diagnoses. Each year diagnostic errors may contribute to as many as 40,000 to 80,000 deaths. Another 80,000 to 160,000 American patients experience severe harm due to diagnostic mistakes.
Johns Hopkins researchers also found that poor judgment on the part of physicians and other clinical providers accounts for over 85% of all misdiagnosis cases.
Whether due to lack of communication with patients, failure to order necessary tests or failure to recognize key symptoms, there are many ways that diagnostic errors can occur when physicians are negligent. Patients and their families should know that the law may entitle them to compensation for a doctor’s potentially harmful or even deadly oversight.