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Millions of people suffer from misdiagnosis each year

For many Louisiana patients, their first contact with a doctor regarding an ailment is in an emergency room, a clinic or some other outpatient setting. A recent study indicates that as many as 12 million people each year receive a misdiagnosis during these visits. About half of those misdiagnoses have the potential of harming the patient.

In gathering their data, researchers reviewed the results from three prior studies. Those studies focused on successive instances of lung cancer and colorectal cancer where patients made return visits for the same complaint and there was a lack of follow-up regarding abnormal test results. An analysis of that data indicated an incorrect diagnosis in more than 5 percent of the cases, which others say is most likely a minimum not a maximum. While 5 percent may not seem like a lot, it is far too high when people's lives are at stake -- as is the case with cancer.

One of the issues regarding these misdiagnoses is the lack of time doctors have with patients. Reportedly, this is due, at least in part, to a lack of staff and technology. If these issues could be fixed, doctors might have more time to spend with patients to ensure they are correctly diagnosing patients from the start.

Patients in Louisiana and around the country expect physicians to make the correct diagnosis from the start. When a doctor tells a patient that he or she is fine, the patient tends to rely on that. When a patient receives a misdiagnosis that leads to serious harm or even death, the patient -- or the patient's family in the case of death -- may file a medical malpractice claim. Any award of damages received could help with current and future expenses incurred as a result of the doctor's mistake.

Source: NBC News, "Misdiagnosed: Docs' Mistakes Affect 12 Million a Year", Jonel Aleccia, April 16, 2014