Half of all medical mistakes in the U.S. are reported as misdiagnosis, according to a study released this week by Isabel Healthcare, a developer of web-based diagnosis decision support systems.
One in six U.S adult citizens, some 35 percent of survey respondents, indicated in the last five years that they either had directly experienced a misdiagnosis, or a friend or relative had. Of the 35 percent, one quarter of those medical mistakes resulted in permanent harm or death. Disappointingly, eight years ago Harris Poll indicated the same results in a poll conducted on behalf of the National Patient Safety Foundation; hence, there seems to have been no improvements in that time.
“The modern patient safety movement has focused our attention on procedural mishaps – cutting off the wrong leg, prescribing the wrong medicine – but has largely ignored a problem every bit as important: misdiagnosis,” Robert M. Wachter, MD, associate chairman of UCSF’s Department of Medicine, and chief of the Medical Service at UCSF Medical Center, in a statement regarding the study. “Today in America, hundreds of patients will be falsely reassured and panicked, and many of them will be medicated, scanned and even cut open because of the wrong diagnosis,” added Wachter.
The survey included 2,201 respondents and was carried out last November by By YouGov and commissioned by the Isabel Medical Charity. Further results showed that the main concern of people (55 percent) when seeing their general practitioner was being correctly diagnosed. For those going to the hospital, the concern is also highly prevalent (23 percent). The survey also suggested that patients would take some comfort if health IT systems were used by physicians to confirm diagnosis or to look up other possibilities (70 percent).
“Like most medical errors, this one will not be fixed by trying to magically mint flawless physicians,” said Wachter. “Rather, it will require that we train doctors how to avoid common cognitive speedbumps and we give them the tools – including computerized decision support – that will help them come to the right answers for their patients.”