If you have ever needed to seek treatment in an emergency department, you understand that this environment can be chaotic. It is easy to see how, in such a busy, tension-filled environment, details of one’s experience might somehow slip through the cracks.
Yet, a recent study released by researchers from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine indicates that far more patients are suffering significant harm due to mistakes and professional assumptions than is remotely reasonable.
The scope of the issue
According to the study, nearly 7.5 million patients in the U.S. are misdiagnosed in emergency departments on an annual basis. This figure translates roughly to one misdiagnosis out of every 18 patients treated in emergency departments.
Of these 7.5 million affected patients, approximately 2.6 million will suffer genuine, otherwise preventable harm as a result. Most tragically, an additional 370,000 patients will be permanently disabled or lose their lives as a result of E.R. misdiagnosis errors.
It is worth noting that roughly two out of every five serious misdiagnosis errors stems from not correctly identifying that five serious conditions are presenting in an atypical or a non-specific fashion. This essentially means that these conditions aren’t manifesting in patients in “textbook” ways. These five most commonly misdiagnosed serious conditions in emergency department settings are:
- Spinal injuries
- Myocardial infarction
- Venous thromboembolism
- Aortic aneurysm or dissection
It seems that the medical community has been alerted to an urgent need to understand atypical and non-specific presentations of these particular conditions.
By understanding how often misdiagnoses of serious conditions are made, patients may be more empowered to advocate for themselves when they can feel that something is truly wrong and their concerns are being largely dismissed. And, in the event that a tragic misdiagnosis results in significant harm, patients and loved ones may be more empowered to seek justice and systematic reform.