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Study Finds Extent of Diagnostic Error High for Complex Conditions

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A new study published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, found that as many as 88 percent of patients who go for a second opinion or diagnosis confirmation before treatment for a complex condition, go home with a new or refined diagnosis – changing their care plan and potentially their lives.  Conversely, only 12 percent receive confirmation that the original diagnosis was complete and correct.

To determine the extent of diagnostic error, the researchers examined the records of 286 patients  referred from primary care providers to Mayo Clinic’s General Internal Medicine Division in Rochester over a two-year period (Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010). It consisted of all patients referred by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, along with an equal number of randomly selected physician referrals. The team compared the referring diagnosis to the final diagnosis to determine the level of consistency between the two and, thus, the level of diagnostic error. In only 12 percent of the cases was the diagnosis confirmed.

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