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Millions misdiagnosed in US each year: What can be done?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
How many adults might be misdiagnosed in the US each year?

We've all heard stories of patients given the wrong diagnosis for what ails them. Have you ever wondered how many patients are misdiagnosed each year? New research suggests the number of misdiagnosed patients each year is in the millions.

One in 20 patient diagnoses missed or wrong

Researchers suspect approximately 1 in 20 adult patients with abnormal findings are given the wrong diagnosis each year.

The research that is published online in BMJ Quality & Safety highlights the need for better tracking.

Dr. Hardeep Singh of the Veterans Affairs Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX says finding statistics is challenging.

The authors point out patient safety concerns are primarily focused on hospital infection rates, falls and medication errors. But getting the wrong diagnosis can be just as dangerous as prolonged hospital stays, injury and adverse events from being given the wrong drug.

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Because most patients are diagnosed outside of the hospital setting there has been little focus on safety concerns that could affect up to half of patients told they have the wrong ailment.

The study

To find out how many misdiagnoses occur each year the study authors looked for numbers of misdiagnosed conditions from published studies that combined hundreds of records from outpatient clinics. Next they applied the results to a larger population and then to the entire U.S. population.

The research team specifically looked at unusual patterns of patient follow-up in the presence of abnormal findings. A third published study suggested missed opportunities for detecting early lung cancer while another study found missed cases of colorectal cancer.

The results showed 5.08 percent of new patients are misdiagnosed, which suggested 1 in 20 adults receive the wrong diagnosis each year. That equates to roughly 12 million adults.

Singh offers the following suggestions to help protect patients:

  • Understand why it happens
  • Study and implement strategies to prevent it
  • Better physician follow-up
  • Better patient tracking
  • Local and national policies that address the problem
  • Improved information technology to help physicians make better decisions
  • Patient empowerment. Call your doctor if you don't get your test results. Never assume no news is good news. If you continue to have symptoms even after you're told your testing is normal seek another opinion.

      Singh and his team are in the process of developing technology to help track abnormal findings. The result could help protect millions of adult patients who are misdiagnosed each year.



The most comprehensive review of “adverse events” (also referred to as “Iatrogenic Injury”) caused by modern medicine is the article Death by Medicine, written by Gary Null, Ph.D.; Carolyn Dean MD, ND; Martin Feldman, MD; Debora Rasio, MD; and Dorothy Smith, PhD. [ 5 ]. This fully referenced report reveals that: • 2.2 million people experience in-hospital, adverse reactions to prescribed drugs per year. • 20 million unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed annually for viral infections • 7.5 million unnecessary medical and surgical procedures are performed annually, and • 8.9 million people are exposed to unnecessary hospitalization every year! The most stunning statistic, however, is that the total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is an astounding 783,936 per year! That is a mind-boggling 2147 people killed daily! That's 7 jumbo jet plane crashes, each and every day. That's a 9-11 incident occurring every other day...FOREVER. God help us all.
Hi Hans! Hope you are well.And those are only the ones we know about that.
Hi Kathleen. I am very well, thank you. And yes, those figures quoted by the authors are supposed to be the tip of the iceberg. The actual death toll is probably at least 5 times as high. Best to avoid the medical system!