It is now widely understood that medical errors occur at an alarming rate in the U.S. Both the medical community and the public have paid particular attention to this issue since researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine cited medical errors as the third-leading cause of death in America back in 2016.
Researchers at the same facility recently published a study indicating just how consequential misdiagnosis errors are proving to be when patients present atypical symptoms of certain conditions in emergency department settings.
Why is this happening?
Making mistakes is human nature. However, the scope of the Johns Hopkins study suggests that the medical community needs to scrutinize how often mistakes related to atypical presentations of serious medical conditions occur in emergency care settings. While some of these misdiagnosis scenarios likely occur under circumstances that aren’t preventable, many others are likely manifestations of medical malpractice that need to be addressed urgently and with great seriousness of purpose.
What is clear is that atypical presentations of symptoms linked to several serious health conditions are leading to far too many misdiagnosis errors and far too many deaths. According to the study, approximately 250,000 patients lose their lives annually due to misdiagnosis issues in emergency care settings. In total, 7.4 million Americans are misdiagnosed in emergency departments every year and roughly 370,000 of these individuals suffer significant harm as a result.
Whatever is leading emergency care providers to misdiagnose manifestations of serious conditions that don’t manifest in “textbook” ways needs to be addressed. Until this crisis is adequately addressed, patients will need to be strong self-advocates for their own care and will need to learn about their legal rights in the event that they suffer misdiagnosis-related harm. That way, they won’t be required to shoulder the burden of costs related to inadequate patient care.