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Could medical diagnosis errors be reduced?

On Behalf of | Dec 4, 2020 | Misdiagnosis

No matter what career you are in, you will make errors from time to time. However, when someone works as a doctor, they cannot afford to make mistakes.

According to a study by the John Hopkins Armstrong Institute, U.S. doctors make around 100,000 diagnosis errors each year that result in permanent disability or death. They probably make many more mistakes that do not result in such serious harm.

What diagnostic mistakes are the most common?

What diagnosis errors can doctors make? Some of the most common include:

  • An incorrect diagnosis: If, for example, a doctor decides a client has diabetes, they will prescribe treatment based on that. It will not help the patient if they actually have cancer or lupus, instead.
  • A missed or delayed diagnosis: Time can be critical when dealing with illnesses. If the medical staff does not work out what is wrong with the patient the first time around, they may lose the opportunity to make a difference.

When are misdiagnoses most likely to happen?

The researchers found that misdiagnoses were most likely to happen in one of two places: emergency wards or outpatient clinics. Both involve patients who pass through, as opposed to being there for a few days.

What diseases do doctors most frequently diagnose incorrectly?

There are three illnesses that, between them, account for over three-quarters of all medical misdiagnoses:

  • Cancer 38%
  • Vascular events 28%
  • Infections 14%

What can be done to reduce diagnosis errors?

Doctors cannot possibly remember the symptoms of all 10,000 or so diseases that exist. However, this is something computer programs can do easily. By making better use of this technology available, they can reduce the chance of errors. As artificial intelligence becomes cleverer, this could likely play a significant role. 

It is unlikely diagnosis errors will ever be ruled out completely, but the report suggests that authorities need to dedicate more funding to reducing these errors. Doing so could save thousands of people each year from death or permanent disability.