Misdiagnosis or wrong diagnosis is one of the most serious medical errors, contributing to delayed treatments, wrong treatments and other possibly fatal consequences. However, one consequence of misdiagnosis that very often slips under the radar is the high risk of antibiotic resistance linked to the wrong drugs that are prescribed after a misdiagnosis.
Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions in the United States are urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and pneumonia. When a person is wrongly diagnosed, doctors may begin the wrong treatment including an inappropriate medication schedule. That generally means incorrect use of in antibiotics in hospitals or out-patient settings. When a person is given antibiotics for a misdiagnosed or wrongly diagnosed condition, the condition may not improve and there is also a serious risk that the effectiveness of the antibiotic is severely diminished.
There are reasons for the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in US hospitals. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics has been pointed out as one of the reasons for this scourge. When antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly, there is a much higher risk of the development of resistance to important and beneficial antibiotics.
According to researchers at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, incorrect or inappropriate use of antibiotics was seen in as many as 95% of patients who had been victims of misdiagnoses. In contrast, the rate of incorrect antibiotic use among patients who were correctly diagnosed, was just 30%. Antibiotics are used in approximately 56% of all inpatient cases in American hospitals, and are likely inappropriately or incorrectly administered in as many as 50% of all cases. In most cases of wrong antibiotic use, misdiagnosis seems to be the primary culprit.
What is even more shocking is the widespread incidence of misdiagnosis in American hospitals as revealed by the study. Only 58% of the patients studied actually received a correct diagnosis of their condition. The study also focused on several factors that are responsible for misdiagnosis, including staff fatigue, sleep deprivation, overworked staff, and lack of experience with specific drug side effects. The researchers also found that staff members are much more likely to misdiagnose when they are dealing with patients who had been previously diagnosed with a condition by another doctor or hospital.
The critical role that antibiotics play in health care cannot be overstated. In order to help reduce the frightening numbers of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that are infiltrating our hospitals, hospitals need to invest in streamlining and error-proofing their diagnostic procedures. That can include solid steps like opening up lines of communication among staff and patients in order to help encourage patients as well as lower-ranking staff to speak up when they see room for error, the use of frequent evaluations, prioritization of patient safety, increasing patient awareness about their own medical history and the use of robotics and information technologies to help minimize the risk of diagnostic errors.
The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP represent persons injured as a result of medical negligence and misdiagnosis across Indiana.