If you are like millions of other Americans, you have paid a visit to an outpatient clinic or emergency room with hopes of receiving a diagnosis as to what is ailing you. People put their trust in medical professionals to evaluate their symptoms, inspect their physical vital signs and determine what is wrong. You may be surprised to learn, however, that as many as 12 million people in the U.S. are misdiagnosed when they are seen by healthcare professionals in these settings.

These numbers were found in a study published in BMJ Quality & Safety. Researchers found that approximately one in 20 adult patients are misdiagnosed and half of those cases result in serious patient harm. Besides human error, what happens in these medical settings that makes this type of medical negligence so prevalent?

Some believe that lack of communication plays a big role in medical errors. Outpatient physicians may not have a complete medical history of the patient, or the patient may fail to give the doctor their complete medical history. Physicians may overlook an ongoing problem because they do not have access to this information.

Doctors in emergency rooms and outpatient clinics may not spend enough time with each patient to give them a thorough evaluation. As physicians rush from one patient to the other, they are not able to come up with the true underlying problem. Doctors may also fail to order the right screening tests or evaluate the results properly, leading to a misdiagnosis.

As a patient, you may want to seek a second opinion when receiving a diagnosis to ensure you have received an accurate one. Medical negligence can result in you taking medications or undergoing a procedure for a condition you do not have.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.