Patients often know when something is off within their bodies. Yet, they are not always able to determine what the problem is or how to fix it. Most people entrust their doctors with figuring out what is ailing them and recommending a course of action to make it better. However, doctors are not immune to making diagnostic errors.
AARP reports that today’s doctors misdiagnose patients at alarming rates. A study involving patients who pursued second opinions after receiving serious medical diagnoses from their primary care physicians revealed that doctors misdiagnosed about 20% of them.
Additional study findings
The study showed that, in addition to completely misdiagnosing about a fifth of all patients surveyed, doctors also gave diagnoses to another 66% that were only somewhat accurate. Only 12% of patients diagnosed with something serious received the correct diagnosis from their primary care doctors.
Consequences of diagnostic errors
When doctors misdiagnose patients who have serious conditions, it often has a sizable impact on the patient’s prognosis. For example, when a doctor misdiagnoses cancer and a patient either does not receive treatment or receives treatment for something else, the cancer may spread or advance to a more serious stage.
Research has also shown that diagnostic errors factor into between 6% and 17% of adverse events that take place in hospitals. Studies also suggest that these doctor mistakes play a role in about 10% of all patient fatalities.
Patients who receive serious medical diagnoses might consider seeking second opinions promptly before moving forward with an intensive form of treatment. A second doctor may catch another doctor’s error, but it is unlikely that two doctors would make the same incorrect diagnosis.