While misdiagnosing a patient has always been a problem in the medical field, the problem has grown into an epidemic, and a very dangerous one, as a recent study reveals approximately 12 million adults who seek outpatient medical care are misdiagnosed.

Shockingly, this figure amounts to 1 out of every 20 adult patients and the study adds that half of those cases can potentially result in severe harm for the patient.

The study, recently published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, illustrates that while many times the consequences of the misdiagnosis' are minor, pointing to instances when doctors may  refer to symptoms as an "allergy" when it turns out be a cold, the research claims more than 6 million patients a year in the U.S. could encounter instances when a misdiagnosis could lead to a potentially deadly delay in something like a cancer treatment requirement.

"Although it is unknown how many patients will be harmed from diagnostic errors, our previous work suggests that about one-half of diagnostic errors have the potential to lead to severe harm," explain the authors of study. "While this is only an estimate and does not imply all those affected will actually have harm, this risk potentially translates to about 6 million outpatients per year."

The lead author, Dr. Hardeep Singh, of the Baylor College of Medicine and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, has spent parts of the last several years conducting related studies on this topic. One of the many reasons Dr. Singh gives for the increase in misdiagnosis is the increase in e-communication doctors deal with today.

"The problem is that it's now so much easier to communicate than ever before," explained Dr. Hardeep. "Sending messages electronically is very convenient. But it's also meant that a lot of noise is coming the way of physicians who are the gatekeepers."

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