Medical Errors Are More Common Than You Think

Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose

Emergency Sign over a Hospital Emergency Room Entrance

According to a recent study, almost every American will be the victim of an incorrect medical diagnosis at some point in their lifetime. Critics say there are multiple factors that contribute to the problem:

  • Poor communication between doctors and patients
  • Fatigue or carelessness by overworked medical professionals
  • A culture of silence among doctors who initially make diagnostic errors

To reduce the risk of a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis, it’s critical, say health care professionals that doctors, nurses and other health care workers operate as a team, and that they include the patient as a full team member. They say that physicians need to listen more closely to nurses, and that all medical professionals need to take patient complaints more seriously.
And they say that the medical profession must change its perception of incorrect diagnoses. The tendency among most doctors is not to talk about what they got wrong. Critics say that doing so is the best way to learn and to ensure that such diagnoses are not repeated.

Surgical Error

It’s not just misdiagnoses, though, that are more frequent than commonly perceived. A recent study reported a significantly high rate of surgical errors:

  • In one of every 10,000 surgeries, the surgeon leaves some surgical tool or other object in a body cavity
  • In one of every 100,000 surgeries, the surgeon operates on the wrong body part
    Again, critics say the main culprit is poor communication. Surgeons may neglect to properly read charts or to confirm with the patient what procedure is to be done. Staff members, such as surgical team nurses, may be unwilling to speak up when they perceive a mistake is about to be made.

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