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Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose common in clinics

When a physician misdiagnoses or fails to diagnose a patient with the proper medical condition, the outcome can be very harmful and even fatal for some patients. While many reports have focused on the risk of diagnostic errors for hospital patients, patients receiving primary care in clinics are also at risk.The way primary physicians conduct office exams has changed as physicians are taking on more patients as well as performing more administrative tasks. Unfortunately, these changes have led to shorter office visits and have increased the chances of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a patient's medical condition, according to a new study published in JAMA International Medicine.The study found that the increased time constraints for office visits and examinations has increased the risk of diagnostic errors, which puts patients at risk for suffering from a medical condition and additional side effects from an undiagnosed condition.

Because physicians are spending less time examining the patient and getting an accurate patient history, they are more likely to misdiagnose the patient. The study reported several factors that have contributed to the increased risk of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose by clinical physicians, which include errors during the physical exam or getting the patient's medical history, not following-up on test results and misinterpreting test results.

These types of errors can be very serious for a patient's health. If a patient is not diagnosed with a medical condition in a timely manner, they may begin to suffer irreversible harm from the condition along with other side effects associated with the disease or illness.

Diagnostic errors can seriously affect a patient's health so it is important to be aware of the most commonly missed diagnoses, which include pneumonia, congestive heart failure, acute renal failure, cancer and urinary tract infections.

Source: American Medical News, "Primary care time squeeze explains errors in diagnosis," Kevin B. O'Reilly, March 11, 2013

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