According to a study made by IOM (Institute of Medicine) as many as 100,000 Americans die each year due to misdiagnosis. Medical errors are one of the major causes of death in the United States.
Diagnostic errors are a huge health and economic problem. Their number in the last decade, according to the The American Journal of Medicine, despite progress in medicine has not decreased. On the contrary, it remains invariable. The same source also states that in America, in a period of five years, as many as 35% of people had experience with diagnostic errors. Moreover, as much as 35% of these cases resulted in permanent disability or even death. A study conducted by the peer-reviewed medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2000, compared clinical diagnoses and diagnoses made at autopsy. The results show that major clinical diagnoses were not determined in 26% of cases. Regarding oncological diseases, the percentage of error is even higher – the Journal of Cancer indicates that 30% of first diagnosis of oncological diseases may be incorrect.
Types of Misdiagnosis
In general, the diagnosis can be correct, incorrect or delayed. Early studies in oncological diseases show that misdiagnosis can be more dangerous for the patient than a delayed diagnosis. For example, in the field of radiology which is crucial in determining the diagnosis, misdiagnosis occurs quite often. Studies estimate that the daily rate of errors in the interpretation of images is around 3-5%. Moreover, four out of five errors are due to incorrect perception.
In radiology, there are basically three types of errors:
- False negatives – where the doctor does not identify a real disease, happens as often as in 25-32% of cases
- False positives – where radiologists conclude that a healthy patient is suffering from a disease, happens in 1-62 % of cases
- Inconclusive results – where a doctor is not sure whether a disease is present, are very frequent, up to one in two cases in some diagnoses.
The Most Common Causes
There are many factors that may be the cause of misdiagnosis. Of course they include human error because of lack of experience, lack of equipment in hospitals, lack of technology, but also atypical symptoms of the disease. The radiologist who studies the MRI, CT or X-ray can be working in a busy room or simply has little experience with that health problem.
The most frequent errors in radiological diagnosis include:
- lack of knowledge
- poor communication (diagnosis is stated correctly by radiologist, but fails to be communicated properly by the treating physician )
- flawed reasoning (identification of the findings but incorrect determination of cause)
- satisfaction of search (this is a well-recognized phenomenon in which detection of one radiographic abnormality satisfies the ‘search’ and results in premature termination of the search)
A closer examination of the causes in the study shows that 90% of errors occur just from the last two reasons mentioned above. Clinical radiologist Erik Ranschaert from the teaching Hospital Jeroen Bosch Ziekenhuis in the south of the Netherlands and the Chief Medical Officer of Diagnose.me, also confirms that if the diagnosis is determined on time, the odds of successful treatment increase significantly. The fact does remain though that incorrect or late diagnosis may indeed have serious consequences, the best thing you can do for yourself and to ensure precise results is have more than one person look at your body images. Getting a second opinion from another expert reduces your risk of misdiagnosis from 20% to 4%. And, contrary to what you might think, getting a second opinion can be simple and affordable.
In the current figures and trends one must not forget that the number of tests is growing. The annual growth rate of radiological tests is between 10-20%. Analyzing the growing number of images and the growing complexity of imaging studies puts an increasing demand on radiologists. This may lead to more errors in interpretation in certain cases. Such errors can be eliminated with a second medical opinion. Studies show that a second expert opinion from a specialist radiologist reduces the risk of misdiagnosis by up to 90%. Moreover, waiting for hospital appointments and lack of professionals, in reality, is quite common. Modern technology now offers solutions. If you run into a similar “waiting” or “precarious” position in the case of radiological examinations, thanks to new possibilities, you can consult with world-class experts and get an expert second opinion almost immediately.
Diagnose.me provides online access to the world’s top specialists to help confirm or correct your scan results. You can choose your specialist and get a response in as little as 48 hours. Be sure your doctor is making the right decision and be confident in knowing what comes next is best for you.