Most Americans will suffer from a wrong medical diagnosis from a doctor at least once in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences, according to sober findings in a just-released national study.
In fact, doctors across America are misdiagnosing as many as 12 million adults who seek outpatient care each year, according to the report from the Institute of Medicine, the health branch of the National Academy of Sciences. And, the study found that those errors will likely worsen in part because the diagnostic process and the delivery of health care is becoming ever more complex.
"Despite the pervasiveness of diagnostic error and the risk for patient harm, they have been largely unappreciated within the quality safety movement in health care and this cannot and must not continue," said Victor Dzau, M.D., the president of the National Academy of Medicine.
The report also found that diagnostic errors accounted for as many as 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals, and contributed to 10 percent of patient deaths in cases in which postmortem exams were performed. The report also noted that getting a true reading on the problem is tough because the number of autopsies – a key component in determining errors—has declined dramatically over the years.
The report pinpointed several common causes of diagnostic errors. They include: poor communications among doctors, patients and their families; limited feedback to physicians regarding the accuracy of the diagnoses; and a culture within the medical community that discourages the disclosure of errors. That, the report stressed, impedes the learning process and limits the reduction of such errors.
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