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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Missed Diagnosis Issues a Bigger Public Health Hazard Than Most Think

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A new study indicates that incorrect, delayed, or missed diagnoses by primary care physicians put tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of people at risk every year. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, family doctors and other first-line providers may be incorrectly evaluating a wide range of symptoms and maladies and jeopardizing their patients’ health and safety far more commonly than most think.

While surgical and pharmacy errors have captured the attention of patient-health advocates, diagnostic mistakes can cause just as much harm, and possibly on a much greater scale. Perhaps the biggest factor in misdiagnosis cases is that common symptoms such as abdominal pain and headaches can be present in both minor health issues and in major, life-threatening crises. And these missed diagnoses are no small matter – about a third of the diagnostic errors studied resulted in permanent injury or death.

Although these numbers are frightening, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself. Be an advocate for yourself, or bring along someone who will be. Ask questions about your diagnosis and your treatment options. Have your doctor explain all the different things that could be causing your symptoms, and be sure to tell your doctor about ALL your symptoms.