12,000,000 Americans Harmed Annually By Medical Mistakes


Medical Mistakes Harm 1 in 20 Adult Patients

Every year, like the birds returning north, medical lobbyists and their insurance carriers argue for more protection for doctors.   They shriek “frivolous lawsuits, frivolous lawsuits” as if it’s some mantra against litigation.  And pass new “tort reform” laws to reduce lawsuits and take away patient’s rights and protections.   But that’s not the mantra they ought to be shrieking.  Rather, based on several studies over the years, and one very new one, the mantra ought to be “how can I do better and not kill or harm my patient.”   You know, maybe they should hark back to the Hippocratic command:   First, do no harm.

Previous studies, including one from Harvard, and others, suggested that over 98,000 people die each year from medical mistakes.   A new study, which focused on injuries and deaths, said that up to 12,000,000 Americans, or 1 in 20 adult patients, may walk away from the ER or health clinic with the wrong diagnosis.  Dr. Hardeep Singh, who is a researcher for the VA Center for Innovations, Quality, Effectiveness and Safety and Baylor Medical College, performed a robust study to examine medical errors.

Studying cases and tracking electronic data, Dr. Singh and his colleagues found that their research showed that 1 in 20 adults were misdiagnosed.   That’s 12,000,000 patients a year.   Put simply, the original diagnosis was flat wrong.   Other patient safety experts believe the numbers to be higher, and that the 1 in 20 figure is simply a “minimum.”   Dr. Singh acknowledges that the cause of these dangerous misdiagnoses are many, but attributes some of them to the short amount of time doctors spend with patients and a “fairly chaotic outpatient environment.”

Dr. Singh hopes his study, and those that preceded him, will force doctors and clinics to take a look at how they practice medicine and diagnose.   He also warns patients to give their doctor a complete list of symptoms and a full heath history.  And to follow up.  As he said, “No news is not good news.”  If you do not hear from your doctor, follow up.  As we have long reported too, if you get a ridiculous result from your doctors, get a second opinion.

-Pat Dawson

Partner With
The Cooper Firm

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