Around five per cent of patients are misdiagnosed in outpatient clinics, and half of these mistakes could be life-threatening, a new study has discovered.
This level of misdiagnoses-which was recorded in outpatient clinics in the US-affects around 12 million Americans every year, half of whom could die because their condition has not been correctly identified and treated.
The level of errors represent a "substantial patient safety risk", say researchers, who cross-checked results from outpatient clinic visits against published studies and hundreds of medical records.
The researchers reckon it is the first time that anyone has checked on rates of misdiagnoses. Patient safety research has previously focused on hospital stays, infections, falls and medication errors.
(Source: BMJ Quality & Safety, April 2014; doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2013-002627)