"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Study: Misdiagnoses cause serious harm to 795,000 people yearly

July 19, 2023 – An estimated 795,000 people die or are permanently disabled every year within the United States because of misdiagnosis. Stroke tops the list of misdiagnosed medical problems that end in serious harm.

About three-quarters of all misdiagnoses affect people affected by considered one of the so-called “big three” – cardiac events equivalent to heart attacks, infections or cancer. In addition to strokes, sepsis, pneumonia, blood clots within the veins and lung cancer are probably the most common diseases that result in death or disability because of misdiagnosis.

On average, the researchers estimated that 11 percent of all medical problems result in a misdiagnosis, although the error rate varies greatly depending on the disease. For heart attacks, the misdiagnosis rate is just 1.5 percent, but for spinal abscesses it's 62 percent.

Measuring harm brought on by medical practice is a difficult area of ​​research since it is difficult to gather accurate data. Published Monday within the journal BMJ Quality and SafetyThe estimates on this recent study relied heavily on known error rates that occur in certain diseases.

The research was a collaboration between teams on the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence and the Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions.

“A 50% reduction in diagnostic errors for stroke, sepsis, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism and lung cancer could reduce the number of permanent disabilities and deaths by 150,000 per year,” said researcher David Newman-Toker, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Diagnostic Excellence, in a opinion.

The estimates were created by multiplying the number of individuals within the U.S. who've a disease by the number of individuals known to cause harm or make mistakes. The researchers added together the estimates for 15 diseases and applied those patterns to all dangerous diseases, in response to a research summary from Johns Hopkins Medicine. Each 12 months, there are an estimated 371,000 deaths because of misdiagnosis, along with 424,000 everlasting disabilities.

“Diagnostic errors are by far the most underfunded health care crisis we face, and yet research funding has only recently reached the $20 million per year mark,” Newman-Toker said. “If we are to achieve diagnostic excellence and reach the goal of eliminating preventable harm from diagnostic errors, we must continue to invest in our efforts to be successful.”