Johns Hopkins researchers recently found that diagnostic mistakes accounted for 28.6 percent of the 350,706 medical malpractice claims paid between 1986 and 2010. They arrived at this number after studying the National Practitioner Data Bank, a database of all malpractice judgments or settlements dating back to 1986.
“Overall, diagnostic errors have been underappreciated and under-recognized because they’re difficult to measure and keep track of owing to the frequent gap between the time the error occurs and when it’s detected,” study researcher Dr. David Newman-Toker, an associate professor of neurology at the university’s medical school, said in a statement, according to Huffington Post.
While not as obvious as a surgical error, which ranks as the third most common malpractice claim, diagnostic mistakes have caused the death of or injury to as many as 80,000 to 160,000 Americans in the 24-year time span studied.
“This is a major health problem,” said Newman-Toker. “You can’t get the treatment right if you don’t get the diagnosis right.”