Medical mistakes kill or disable 795,000 a year; some more at risk

About 12 million adults are misdiagnosed in the United States alone

Nearly 25% of patients died or were transferred to intensive care because of a diagnostic error, a new study discovered. According to a July 2023 study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researchers, medical mistakes account for up to 795,000 annual patient deaths or permanent disabilities.

In addition, a 2014 medical study found roughly 12 million adults are misdiagnosed each year in the U.S. alone.

It’s a potentially fatal health risk that is disproportionately affecting some people more than others.

Women, racial and ethnic minorities are 20% to 30% more likely than white men to experience misdiagnosis, Dr. David Newman-Toker, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told NBC News.

Dr. Hardeep Singh, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, added that life-threatening mistakes in the U.S. health care industry remain far too common.

“The vast majority of diagnoses can be made by getting to know the patient’s story really well, asking follow-up questions, examining the patient, and ordering basic tests,” Singh told NBC News. When talking to people who’ve been misdiagnosed, “one of the things we hear over and over is, ‘The doctor didn’t listen to me.’”

Minority patients are less likely to be insured than white ones, less likely to have access to high-quality hospitals and, ultimately, face a health care system where racial bias is “baked into our culture,” according to Dr. Monika Goyal, an emergency physician at Children’s National Hospital.

According to a 2008 experiment, doctors were found to be more confident when diagnosing white men than anyone else.

“If they were less certain, they were less likely to take action, such as ordering tests,” Karen Lutfey Spencer, a professor of health and behavioral sciences at the University of Colorado-Denver, told NBC News. “If they were less certain, they might just wait to prescribe treatment.”