Medical errors involving surgery or drug mistakes receive a lot of attention, perhaps in part because it is often obvious that an error has been made. But research indicates that misdiagnosis may be a far more common type of medical mistake.
Experts in patient safety say that misdiagnosis, which can include delayed, missed or incorrect diagnoses, may affect between 10 and 20 percent of all cases.
Medical errors that harm patients and are the result of negligence on the part of doctors or hospital personnel may give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits. However, in the vast majority of misdiagnosis cases, lawsuits are not filed. In many cases, patients are not aware that an error was made because the misdiagnosis is never reported.
A report by Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, found that only one in seven mistakes or injuries involving Medicare patients are actually reported by hospital staff, even though reporting events that cause patients harm is a requirement of receiving Medicare payments.
Patients who suspect a misdiagnosis caused or worsened an injury should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate to recover compensation for the harm they suffered.