A recent study by the Mayo Clinic found that more than 20 percent of patients who sought a second opinion had previously been misdiagnosed by their primary care physician. During the two-year study, researchers examined the records of 286 patients who had seen primary care physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in 2009 and 2010. Nearly two-thirds of the patients were under the age of 64, and the majority of patients were female. After receiving an initial diagnosis, each patient sought a second opinion from the Mayo Clinic's General Internal Medicine Division. Of the 286 patients, only 36 patients (12 percent) had received confirmation that the original diagnosis was complete and correct. In 63 cases (21 percent), the diagnosis was completely changed meaning the patient had been misdiagnosed by their primary care physician. In the remaining 188 cases (66 percent), patients received a refined or redefined diagnosis. Researchers did not find any significant differences between provider types.
In late 2011, Steven Cooper, who served nearly 18 years in the Army, went to the Carl T. Haden VA Medical Center. A nurse practitioner found abnormalities during his prostate examination. Eleven months later, Mr. Cooper was told that he had stage IV prostate cancer. Mr. Cooper filed suit.
Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Institute of Medical Education Research Rotterdam, Erasmus MC have proposed a pragmatic framework of strategies to reduce errors of diagnosis in hospitalized patients. While work in the outpatient setting estimates that 1 in 20 U.S. adults are misdiagnosed annually, researchers don't really know how common these errors are in U.S. hospitals. Some data is available from autopsies, but they are often not performed. In order to devise practical strategies to reduce errors in hospital medicine, the study used insights from error analysis to identify improvement opportunities within each of the five dimensions of diagnosis.
In April 2010, Michelle Sanchez was seen at the Lovelace emergency room in New Mexico for left leg swelling and infection. She was treated and released with a recommendation for other tests. Later that month, she was hospitalized for about two weeks.
Five years ago, Zoraida Zambrana was diagnosed with thymic cancer, a rare cancer of the thymus gland.
The family of Kristy Stingley filed a lawsuit against Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, an ER doctor, and a neurologist for medical malpractice. The plaintiffs allege that the hospital committed gross negligence after misdiagnosing Kristy Stingley's brain aneurysm. As a result of the misdiagnosis and subsequent discharge, Kristy passed away leaving a husband and two young children.
Contrary to popular intuition, surgical errors are not the basis for the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits, but in fact the leading causes of malpractice lawsuits are diagnostic issues. There are several diagnostic issues such as misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose. Diagnosis is key to knowing which treatment or procedure a patient needs, and so when there is a failure to accurately diagnose a patient, death commonly results. There are generally three types of problems with diagnosis and each can result in severe injury and/or death. Misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor diagnoses the patient with the wrong disease. For example, a patient arrives in a hospital with gastric distress and is diagnosed with a stomach illness rather than a heart attack. Delayed diagnosis is when a doctor gets the right diagnosis, but due to some error or other event is not able to "catch" the disease in time. Finally, there is missed diagnosis. In cases of missed diagnosis, a patient is examined by a doctor and the doctor finds no serious problem. As a result, the patient leaves thinking there is nothing wrong but later finds that there was a latent illness that the doctor missed.
The New York Times recently wrote on a blog report identifying what kind of medical error accounts for most malpractice payments. As it turns out, it is not surgical mistakes, medication errors or labor and delivery mishaps.
According to a Wolters Klewer Health poll, which surveyed 1,000 American adults, nearly three-quarters of patients say they are concerned about the potential for medical errors. Three in ten patients said they had experience with a medical error, either personally or through a close friend or family member. Twenty-one percent reported to have been misdiagnosed by a physician.