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How common is misdiagnosis and why does it occur?

Whether it is something minor or serious, residents in Pennsylvania go to the doctor or emergency room everyday. In the best case scenario, the patient is diagnosed, treated and is back in good health. But what happens if the doctor is unsure what is ailing the patient or they improperly read their signs, symptoms and vitals? This could lead to the wrong treatment plan and put the patient's health and even life at risk.

How common is misdiagnosis? According to one study, roughly one in every 20 adults seeking medical care at an emergency room or health clinic walk away with a wrong diagnosis. That means that as many as 12 million Americans per year could be impacted by this medical error.

Moreover, the data suggests that almost half of misdiagnoses could harm the patients due to mistreatment or failing to recognize and treat serious problems such as heart failure, pneumonia, lung cancer and other serious ailments.

Because the types of misdiagnosis vary widely, it is difficult to pinpoint what is causing this medical error, but certain factors could play a major role. For example, time with patients, complex symptoms and follow-up appointments can all impact the proper diagnosis of a patient. If a doctor does not spend adequate time with them, does not evaluate all the symptoms and does not schedule a follow-up with a patient, this could increase their chances of misdiagnosis.

No matter the cause of a misdiagnosis, it is important that patients and their loved ones understand their rights and options. An injury caused by a negligent doctor is a serious situation and could lead to long-term health conditions for the patient. When this happens, a patient can file a medical malpractice suit to recover compensation to pay for medical bills, future treatment and other damages related to the incident.

Source: NBC News, "Misdiagnosed: Docs' Mistakes Affect 12 Million a Year," Jonel Aleccia, Accessed on March 15, 2015

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