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How often are patients misdiagnosed?

October 2, 2015

You may be among the minimum of one in twenty patients who seek care and are misdiagnosed at outpatient facilities, according to Medscape. Doctors make a diagnostic error with about 12 million patients each year, half of whom may suffer serious consequences from the mistake. Your health may suffer because a physician fails to schedule a follow up exam, fails to order a test, or ignores an abnormal lung X-ray. Vascular infections are the most common area of error. Typical misdiagnoses occur with cases involving the following:

  •        Pulmonary embolism
  •        Myocardial infarction
  •        Pneumonia
  •        Aspergillosis


Medscape stated that the numbers come from an analysis of several studies. Cancer misdiagnoses were a small part of the analysis, but an important one, according to the researchers. You are likely to suffer more acutely, and your medical care may be far more costly, if you have cancer and your diagnosis is delayed or incorrect.


It may seem counterintuitive, but Medscape states you run considerable risk of being misdiagnosed when you are being treated in an intensive care unit. When you are in the ICU, you are among the sickest patients in the health facility. In addition, it is likely you are unable to adequately communicate your condition to your medical staff. Shift changes, a deluge of patients, and other factors may cause a doctor to make a mistake in assessing your condition.


While you may not die from being misdiagnosed by your doctor, you may be subject to longer hospital stays, unnecessary treatments, and higher medical costs.