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Cancer misdiagnosis study: perceptions, challenges, solutions

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2013 | Failure To Diagnose

The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHH) is a long-tenured organization that advocates health care reform through its association with scores of medical, business and consumer groups. Its President and CEO, John Rother, recently issued this blunt and telling statement about a glaring problem in the medical industry: “Nearly seven hundred billion dollars are wasted in the U.S. medical system each year,” Rother said, “much of which is tied to misdiagnosis or people getting the wrong treatment.”

Rother and many other health care critics believe that national health policy and budget discussions and initiatives should acknowledge this front and center, and make misdiagnosis and the failure to diagnose an illness or disease main talking points whenever patient harm and medical error are agenda topics.

The NHCC teamed up recently with the group Best Doctors, Inc., to conduct a survey of 400 of the country’s leading cancer specialists. The coalition’s just-released report focuses centrally on doctors’ perceptions, underlying catalysts contributing to misdiagnosis and recommendations for reform. Some of the findings are quite noteworthy, and include the following:

  • There is sharp disparity between doctors’ views on how often misdiagnosis occurs and what published studies conclude. Research efforts posit misdiagnoses at a rate considerably higher than that surmised by physicians offering survey comments.
  • Doctors believe that, compared to other conditions, breast cancer suffers a comparatively high misdiagnosis rate, being topped only by lymphoma.
  • Many doctors say that a core reason for cancer misdiagnosis in many instances is erroneous or fragmented medical information.

An executive with Best Doctors says that, regardless of how impassioned and competent a physician might be, performance-reducing factors challenge him or her on a daily basis that increase the likelihood of cancer misdiagnosis. Those include an inordinately high patient load, insufficient time available to spend on individual cases, and incomplete medical records.

Source: Health News Digest, “Landmark nationwide survey on cancer misdiagnosis released,” Jan. 29, 2013

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