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The most-frequent diagnostic errors are for common conditions seen by primary care doctors, including ailments such as pneumonia and heart failure that can lead to severe harm if not treated appropriately, a study found in the US.

The misdiagnoses occurred most often during the doctor’s examination, including trouble getting a complete history from the patient, performing the physical exam and ordering tests, according to research published today in JAMA Internal Medicine. Other common misdiagnoses were for kidney failure, urinary tract infection and cancer.

The findings show that doctors miss or wrongly diagnose a wide range of conditions that can be harmful to patients’ health, said lead study author Hardeep Singh. To reduce the number of misdiagnoses, more needs to be done by doctors and hospitals to engage the patient in their own health care and to improve their access to physicians, he said.

“If we do it together with patients, providers and health care systems, we will have a much deeper impact of understanding and improving this problem,” Singh, chief of health policy and quality program at the Health Services Research and Development Center at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.

 

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