Medical Study Exposes Number of Incorrect or Late Diagnosis

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Most Americans will get a wrong or late diagnosis in their lifetimes, a new report finds — often with devastating effects, NBC News reports.

It's almost impossible to quantify, but the problem is serious, and the lack of a coherent medical system helps keep it under the radar, the National Academy of Medicine finds in a new report.

"Everyone will experience one meaningful diagnostic error in their lifetime," Dr. John Ball, chairman of the Committee on Diagnostic Error in Medicine, which wrote the report, told NBC News. 

"We simply don't know what the incidence of it is. We need to study it more to be able to do anything about it. It's an under-represented, understudied area in medicine and we need to shine a light on it."

The solution involves getting pathologists and radiologists more actively involved in a patient's diagnosis, the Academy, formerly the Institute of Medicine, recommends. It's also calling for changes to medical malpractice laws so professionals aren't afraid to own up to mistakes, and going back to doing autopsies, culture changes at hospitals, clinics and institutions and better use of technology.

According to the report:

1. At least 5 percent of U.S. adults who seek outpatient care each year experience a diagnostic error.
2. Postmortem exams suggest diagnostic errors contribute to 10 percent of patient deaths.
3. Medical records suggest diagnostic errors account for 6 to 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals.

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