12 Million Outpatients Misdiagnosed Every Year
A group of Texas-based researchers have found that roughly 12 million adults who visit U.S. doctors’ offices and other outpatient facilities are misdiagnosed every year. More alarming, half of the errors could lead to serious harm.
About the Misdiagnosis Study
Over the years, multiple efforts have been made to improve patient safety, and most of these efforts have been focused on inpatient hospital care; however, most diagnoses are made in outpatient settings.
As exact figures for misdiagnoses do not exist, the study set out to estimate how often diagnostic errors occur. To do so, researchers analyzed data from three past studies to generate a sample of roughly 3,000 medical records.
1 in 20 Misdiagnosed
“Because of the large number of outpatient visits, this is a huge vulnerability. This is a huge number and we need to do something about it.” – Dr. Hardeep Singh, patient safety researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center as published by Reuters
The study found that misdiagnosis occurs at a rate of just over 5 percent. When extrapolated to the 80 percent of U.S. adults that receive outpatient care every year, the 5 percent rate equals about 12 million people annually.
Previous research by the study’s lead author Dr. Hardeep Singh has shown that about half misdiagnosis cases can result in significant health problems, including delayed cancer treatment or unnecessary treatment of nonexistent ailments.
Singh hopes the findings will spark discussions of patient misdiagnosis and patient safety in outpatient settings.