A new study published in the BMJ Quality & Safety journal found that at least one in twenty patients is misdiagnosed in an outpatient setting, which can put them at risk.  The researchers estimated that approximately 12 million adults in the US could experience a misdiagnosis in an outpatient setting each year. Examples of outpatient settings include doctors’ offices or community health clinics.  NBC News  covered this important study on misdiagnosis, and quoted our Safe Patient Project Director Lisa McGiffert:

“We know people are getting more care in outpatient settings than in the past. There needs to be more scrutiny on what they’re doing and pressure to improve their performance. Misdiagnosis can have a significant impact on patient outcomes and could result in harm.”

The researchers found that doctors missed and delayed diagnosis of lung or colorectal cancer in patients who were eventually diagnosed with either cancer. The researchers estimate the frequency of diagnostic error to be at least 5% in US outpatient adults, a number that entails a “substantial patient safety risk.” According to the CDC, more than three-quarters of all operations in the United States are performed on an outpatient basis.  Much more should be done to track and prevent the errors that occur in outpatient settings.