In a study published on April 16, 2014 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Quality & Safety, researchers estimated that 12 million people in the United States are misdiagnosed in an outpatient clinic setting each year (the researchers calculated the incidence of new cases of misdiagnosis in the United States to be 5.08% each year (one in twenty)). They further found that about one-half of those misdiagnoses are potentially harmful to the patients.
Instead of looking at more traditional sources of information regarding medical errors involving patients in the United States, such as medical malpractice claims data and autopsy reports, the researchers reviewed prior published studies of medical records from a large pool of outpatient clinic visits. While many recent patient safety initiatives have involved efforts to improve hospitalized patient outcomes by reducing infection rates, reducing injuries from falls, and reducing medication errors, this study’s authors noted that many medical diagnoses are made in outpatient clinic settings.
Based on the results of this study, it appears that about 6 million people in the United States are potentially harmed by medical misdiagnosis in the outpatient clinic setting each year. While the percentage/number of misdiagnoses that are the result of medical malpractice (i.e., caused by the breach of the applicable medical standard of care under the circumstances) versus non-negligent misdiagnoses is not stated and/or is not known (which should be the subject of a future study), it can be reasonably assumed that a significant number of the 6 million people each year who are misdiagnosed in the outpatient clinic setting in the United States and are potentially harmed as a result are the victims of medical negligence.
Not only are intensive and effective efforts to reduce the incidence of medical misdiagnosis in the outpatient clinic setting imperative to protect future patients from unnecessary and avoidable harm, the reduction of harmful consequences resulting from medical misdiagnoses is critical because many U.S. states have enacted, and others are contemplating, medical malpractice tort reforms that limit the amount of personal injury damages that innocent victims of medical malpractice can recover, thereby shifting the costs of medical malpractice from the wrongdoers to the victims and their families.
This study does not indicate how many of the 12 million victims of medical misdiagnosis in the outpatient clinic setting in the United States each year are made aware of their misdiagnoses, when they were made aware of their misdiagnoses, who made them aware of their misdiagnoses, or how the circumstances of their misdiagnoses were told to them. This study also does not state if, how, and when the medical providers who made the misdiagnoses became aware of their misdiagnoses of their patients.
If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed by a medical provider in the United States and suffered serious injuries or harms as a result, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your misdiagnosis claim for you and represent you in a medical negligence claim, if appropriate.
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