(The Washington Post) – Most Americans who go to the doctor will get a diagnosis that is wrong or late at least once in their lives, sometimes with terrible consequences, according to a report released Tuesday by an independent panel of medical experts.
This critical type of health-care error is far more common than medication mistakes or surgery on the wrong patient or body part. But until now, diagnostic errors have been a relatively understudied and unmeasured area of patient safety. Much of patient safety is focused on errors in hospitals, not mistakes in diagnoses that take place in doctors’ offices, surgical centers and other outpatient facilities.
The new report by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, outlines a system-wide problem. The report’s authors say they don’t know how many diagnostic errors take place. But the report cited one estimate that such errors affect at least 12 million adults each year, or about 5 percent of adults who seek outpatient care.