Medical misdiagnosis is one of the biggest healthcare safety concerns in the United States today according to The Institute of Medicine. In 2013, about 22 million Americans were misdiagnosed and over 100,000 died as a result (Leavitt & Leavitt, 2011). Globally, misdiagnosis is responsible for millions of patient deaths every year. It is an immense and costly problem. Misdiagnosis also affects the economy by raising the already high price of healthcare delivery. The costs of an inaccurate or delayed diagnosis are very steep. It includes costs of late treatment, litigation, malpractice insurance payouts and the lost economic productivity of the patient. The dynamics of medical decision-making are changing in response to increased pressures on the global healthcare system. In developed countries, the amount of money spent on healthcare is typically the largest single component of gross domestic product (GDP) (Krugman & Wells, 2009).
The cost of healthcare influences the cost of insurance we all pay as well as government services for the uninsured. These rates will only continue to rise as baby boomers age and medicine becomes more and more advanced. Given the human and economic problems created by misdiagnosis, there is an added pressure to bring new efficiencies to the delivery of healthcare by creating an imperative for diagnoses to be made more quickly and accurately (Goldsmith, 2011). How would you measure the true cost to the person who loses their loved ones unnecessarily to medical error? This article is written to educate patients on some precautionary measures that can be taken so that they will not become victims of medical errors.
Why do diagnostic errors happen?
First, we should acknowledge that diagnosis is difficult, healthcare system is imperfect and, as human thinkers, doctors are fallible. . There are more than 12,000 identified diseases today according to the World Health Organization. Due to complexities of human body, one disease may manifest in ten different ways with ten different patients. This therefore make easy for doctors to misdiagnose patient.
Another reason is the complexity of the health system, communication barriers and disjointed care. In today world where people are so mobile, relocating from one city to another, patients change doctors like they change shoes and their medical records sometimes does not follow suit. In some cases, providers will not follow up with patients after health-care visits to encourage them to speak up and keep track of their health records. The tendency for medical error is very likely.
Research have shown serious ownership issues in that no one seems willing to take responsibility for misdiagnosis problem. It seems that diagnostic errors fall into our collective blind spot. Hospitals and health-care organizations think this is a doctor issue. Doctors think it’s a problem for other doctors, and educators don’t see it as their responsibility at all. This is why it’s so important that patients, as “consumers” of healthcare services, should be knowledgeable about their medical conditions with diagnostic tools.
There are some free medical diagnostic tools available to empower patients with the needed knowledge to make sense of their symptoms and change the way they speak to their doctors forever. In my next article, I will provide some empirical insights into how the use of these diagnostic tools can improve medical outcomes for patients.
Dr. Tunde Alaofin