A new report, published by the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) finds that the majority of Americans are victims of a late or wrong diagnosis at some point in their lives.
Unfortunately, it is hard to pinpoint exact numbers and statistics for this issue. However, the report indicates that diagnostic errors are responsible for 6 to 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals, and postmortem exams suggest that 10 percent of patient deaths are a result of diagnostic errors. Sometimes, patients suffer from more than one diagnostic error. A 1998 report from the Institute of Medicine found that tens of thousands of Americans die from medical mistakes.
Dr. John Ball, chairman of Committee on Diagnostic Error in Medicine, and the individual who wrote the report, states that this is an area of medicine that needs to be studied more and brought to the forefront.
There are several ways that have been identified to potentially help with this growing problem:
- Radiologists and pathologists should be more involved in the diagnostic process, so it is not all placed on one doctor.
- Malpractice laws can be changed so that health care workers are not afraid to admit mistakes.
- More autopsies can be performed, so we are more aware of health issues.
- There could be a better use of technology with medical records, so that they are consistent across the board.
- There can be increased training for health care professionals, specifically geared toward learning to spot mistakes and identify and learn from errors.
- Consultation between doctors can be paid for, and given its own code for billing insurance.
- The culture of hospitals and offices can be changed so that individuals are more likely to come forward about errors.