The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes. However, you may be surprised at the frequency with which doctors make mistakes according to a recent article in JAMA. The study reports that more than 2 in 5 patients receives at least one misdiagnosis.
In 190 cases, a total of 68 unique diagnoses were missed. Most missed diagnoses were common conditions in primary care, with pneumonia (6.7%), decompensated congestive heart failure (5.7%), acute renal failure (5.3%), cancer (primary) (5.3%), and urinary tract infection or pyelonephritis (4.8%) being most common. Process breakdowns most frequently involved the patient-practitioner clinical encounter (78.9%) but were also related to referrals (19.5%), patient-related factors (16.3%), follow-up and tracking of diagnostic information (14.7%), and performance and interpretation of diagnostic tests (13.7%). A total of 43.7% of cases involved more than one of these processes. Patient-practitioner encounter breakdowns were primarily related to problems with history-taking (56.3%), examination (47.4%), and/or ordering diagnostic tests for further workup (57.4%). Most errors were associated with potential for moderate to severe harm.
- Hardeep Singh, MD, MPH; Traber Davis Giardina, MA, MSW; Ashley N. D. Meyer, PhD; Samuel N. Forjuoh, MD, MPH, DrPH; Michael D. Reis, MD; Eric J. Thomas, MD, MPH. Types and Origins of Diagnostic Errors in Primary Care Settings. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(6):418-425. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2777.