Medical misdiagnosis impacts 20% of patients, study finds

Making a correct medical diagnosis is often difficult for many reasons. When your doctor gives you an incorrect diagnosis, though, it may have a serious impact on your prognosis. Research shows that medical misdiagnosis is far more common than many people think. A recent study has shined a spotlight on how often and why it occurs.

According to AARP, the Mayo Clinic reviewed the cases of 286 patients who sought second medical opinions after their primary care doctors made serious diagnoses. The study revealed that more than 20% of those who sought second opinions had received completely wrong diagnoses from their original doctors.

Additional study findings

While about a fifth of patients in the study received completely inaccurate diagnoses of their conditions, another 66% received diagnoses that needed modifying later on. Only 12% of those 286 patients had their primary care doctors accurately diagnose their conditions from the outset.

Factors impacting misdiagnosis

Why is it that doctors have such a hard time nailing down accurate medical diagnoses? Diagnosis is often difficult because, while about 10,000 different diseases and conditions exist, patients only exhibit a few hundred symptoms. Second opinions often catch mistakes and save and extend lives. However, many patients hesitate to get second opinions from specialists due to concerns about insurance coverage.

Repercussions of diagnostic errors

The effects of medical misdiagnosis are often far-reaching. Research shows that diagnostic errors play a role in somewhere between 6% and 17% of adverse events that take place in U.S. hospitals. They also have a hand in about 10% of all patient deaths.