South Carolina residents may be surprised to learn how frequently doctors make mistakes when diagnosing their patients' symptoms. A survey published on April 16 in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety reports that up to 12 million Americans, which equates to more than one in 20 adults, are misdiagnosed each year. The study was conducted by a Houston-based veterans affairs center that compiled research from several sources, including medical malpractice claims.
Finding complete and accurate data presented a problem for the researchers. Malpractice claims do not reflect the overall population, and many misdiagnosis cases involve multiple trips to a doctor. The research team examined hundreds of medical records, and they paid particular attention to patients who had returned for medical treatment shortly after their initial visits. The researchers felt that these cases indicated that a chronic condition may have been missed during the original consultation. The team then extrapolated the results for the entire population based on the assumption that 80 percent of American adults visit a doctor each year.