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How common are diagnostic errors?

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

New York residents may benefit from learning more about how often diagnostic errors occur. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, diagnostic errors may be defined as the failure to formulate a timely and accurate explanation of the patient’s health problems or communicate the explanation to the patient. Diagnostic errors include diagnoses that were late, wrong or missed entirely. At large, diagnostic errors are considered a major public health problem in the United States.

Understanding diagnostic errors

Studies estimate that 40,000 to 80,000 people die in hospitals every year from diagnostic errors. Approximately one in three diagnostic errors result in serious injury or death. A Johns Hopkins study identified inaccurate diagnosis as the leading cause of serious medical errors. Around 12 million Americans encounter a diagnostic error every year, while a third suffer permanent damage or death. Over 70 percent of inaccurate diagnoses occur in places like outpatient clinics and emergency departments.

Diagnostic errors matter

Around one-third of medical malpractice claims resulting in permanent disability or death are attributed to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. Studies show that serious diagnostic errors are discovered in 10 to 20 percent of all autopsies. Diagnostic errors occur most commonly for patients with cancer, vascular events and infections. Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include lung cancer, a stroke and sepsis. Patient surveys show that around one in three people experience a diagnostic error.

Medical malpractice and diagnostic errors

Patients report diagnostic errors as the most common cause of medical errors. These errors actually account for the largest portion, most severe harm and the largest payouts of medical malpractice claims, ahead of surgical mistakes and medication overdoses. Nearly half of these medical malpractice cases involve general physicians, followed by medical specialties, general surgery and diagnostic service providers.