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A missed diagnois can cause considerable harm

It is important to get proper and correct medical care because improper treatment or diagnosis can have major repercussions. A failure to diagnose a disease correctly can worsen a patient's condition or illness and create long-lasting health effects.

A new study suggests that missed and incorrect diagnoses can cause harm to patients. The study brings to light a type of mistake that has long been overlooked in patient safety efforts, and it indicates that thousands of patients are at risk of complications from these misdiagnoses.

These types of mistakes could even be more dangerous than other types of errors, according to a doctor who co-wrote the study. The doctor cites misdiagnoses as a major public health issue that harms at least 150,000 people annually by causing death or disability.

The study reports that a patient who has been misdiagnosed is typically hospitalized or seeking additional medical treatment within two weeks. The most common diseases to be initially misdiagnosed are pneumonia, heart failure, kidney failure and cancer. Misdiagnoses can happen because common symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath, can be perceived as many different conditions.

The authors of the study note that patients should be proactive about their medical treatment, as most diagnoses appeared to be the result of doctors not getting accurate patient history or performing full examinations. The authors further say that these mistakes may lead to changes in how doctors are trained, but in the meantime, patients should be more wary of their doctors.

A failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis can create a setback in treatment, as the time lost can lead to the spread of disease and sometimes make the difference between life and death. Identifying medical malpractice is not always easy, but any individual affected by misdiagnosis may be entitled to compensation that can aid in paying the medical bills that result from delayed treatment.

Source: Reuters, "Misdiagnoses in doctor's office can do harm: study," Genevra Pittman, Feb. 25, 2013

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