More than 20% patients who sought second opinion misdiagnosed the first time: study

06 April 2017

Over 20 per cent of patients who sought a second opinion at one of the premier US medical institutions had been misdiagnosed by their primary care providers, according to new research published yesterday.

According to the study 12 per cent of the people who asked specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to review their cases had received correct diagnoses, while the rest had been diagnosed partly in line with the conclusions of the Mayo doctors who evaluated their conditions.

The results were generally similar to research on diagnostic error but provided additional evidence for advocates who said such findings showed that the health-care system still had room for improvement.

"Diagnosis is extremely hard," said Mark L Graber, a senior fellow at the research institute RTI International and founder of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, The Washington Post reported.  "There are 10,000 diseases and only 200 to 300 symptoms."

Graber was not part of the Mayo Clinic research team, which published its results in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, most people would receive an incorrect or late diagnosis at least once in their lives, sometimes with serious consequences.

According to a controversial study from Johns Hopkins University, last year medical errors - which included mistakes in diagnosis - were the third-leading cause of death in hospitals behind cancer and cardiovascular diseases in the US.

Meanwhile, ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom noted that doctors did not list medical errors on death certificates, so counting the actual number of deaths presented its own set of challenges.

The National Academies of Medicine estimated that diagnostic errors led to up to 10 per cent of all patient deaths, and up to 17 per cent of all hospital complications.

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