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How often do doctors make major diagnostic mistakes?

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

The average person knows when there is something wrong with their body, but they don’t always know the underlying cause. They usually need to collect information about their symptoms and then talk to a doctor in order to obtain a diagnosis.

Physicians undergo extensive training to help them recognize the likely underlying cause of someone’s symptoms. In order to properly diagnose a patient, doctors have access to tests like MRIs, ultrasounds and labs. The right testing can rule out certain conditions and point a physician to others.

Patients rely on medical professionals to determine what is causing their symptoms. Sadly, a significant number of patients every year experience diagnostic errors that can delay appropriate treatment and result in long-term harm. How frequently do doctors fail to reach the right diagnosis?

Diagnostic failures occur every day in the United States

The average physician at a general practice or trauma care facility sees many patients every day and works to determine proper diagnoses for those patients.  Studies have shown that as many as 5% of all medical patients in the United States each year experience some kind of significant diagnostic error. That amounts to roughly 1 in 20 patients.

Sometimes, doctors make assumptions that lead to inaccurate diagnoses.  Other times, physicians may fail to diagnose a patient entirely because they cannot determine the cause of the symptoms. Either scenario could lead to a delay in treatment that could worsen a patient’s condition.

Diagnostic errors may constitute malpractice

Sometimes, delays in diagnosis are unavoidable. However, sometimes they are indicative of a doctor failing to follow the standard of care, or what a reasonable practitioner would do under similar circumstances. If another physician with similar training would have ordered different tests or reached a different diagnostic conclusion, the patient affected by that error may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Those who believe they may have been the victim of medical malpractice due to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose may be entitled to compensation for lost wages and for the medical bills they incurred as a result. A qualified medical malpractice attorney can help medical malpractice victims to determine if they might have a legitimate case.