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What is the cause of medical misdiagnosis?

Medical misdiagnosis is an issue that often goes ignored in the United States. Trusted health care professionals are thought to be error proof, and help us by eradicating disease and saving lives. Physicians are, however, human, and therefore, make mistakes just like the rest of the population. A study looking at cases of medical errors in outpatient clinics and emergency room settings brings to light the true prevalence of the problem.

The study published in BMJ Quality & Safety found that one out of every 20 adult patients seen in these settings leave with a misdiagnosis or without being diagnosed at all. This calculates out to be 12 million Americans every year. In approximately half of those cases, patients were seriously harmed as a result of the error. Many people are left wondering, why this form of medical negligence occurs so often?

One reason for medical negligence is the often chaotic environment that can encompass these medical settings. Patients may be seen by more than one health care professional. Furthermore, doctors may not have a complete medical history of the patient, since they are not a regular patient. Doctors are rushed to see a number of patients in a short period of time, prompting them to make hasty decisions and diagnoses that they may not have made if they had spent more time with the patient.

Some other explanations for errors included physicians ordering the wrong screening tests or ordering the wrong tests to be performed.

This information is for educational purposes and should not be taken as legal advice.

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