What is Misdiagnosis?

Updated on October 13, 2021

The NHS treats around 243 million patients per year, and misdiagnosis is pretty rare. However, misdiagnosis does happen from time to time, and it can have severe consequences for those involved. 

Misdiagnosis is a form of medical negligence whereby a healthcare professional provides substandard care to a patient. Medical negligence is often down to a mistake or human error. 

So, what exactly is a misdiagnosis? 

Misdiagnosis is when a healthcare professional provides an incorrect prognosis based on the wrong condition. Doctors may mistake a combination of symptoms for a similar condition or injury. Many diseases have similar symptoms, and it can be incredibly difficult to distinguish between them. 

There are three types of misdiagnoses 

An incorrect misdiagnosis is when healthcare professionals fail to identify the symptoms and diagnose the correct illness. The illness may get worse and severely impact the patient’s life because they haven’t received the correct treatment plan. An incorrect misdiagnosis usually happens with conditions that present with similar symptoms. 

A late or delayed diagnosis is when the healthcare team initially misses the condition. When they finally diagnosis the illness, it is often at a far more advanced stage. The delayed diagnosis can make it more challenging to treat the illness. It may be too advanced, and the patient’s life expectancy could be drastically reduced. In some cases, a late diagnosis can be the difference between life and death for the patient. For example, it is essential to catch cancer early on before it metastasises and spreads throughout the body. 

Finally, a missed diagnosis is when the healthcare team fails to identify the illness at all. They missed the medical condition and did not recognise the symptoms the patient presented with. 

What conditions can be misdiagnosed?

Some conditions are much more likely to be misdiagnosed than others. Cancer, heart attacks, strokes, meningitis and diabetes are the most common conditions to be misdiagnosed. These diseases present with similar symptoms, and doctors may fail to identify their defining characteristics. These conditions can quickly turn fatal, and misdiagnosis can have catastrophic effects. 

What can I claim as a medical misdiagnosis?

If you have experienced a misdiagnosis, you might be able to file a medical negligence claim. Typically, you can file a claim if the doctor failed to diagnose you correctly and does not understand your symptoms. They might fail to send you to the appropriate specialist, causing your condition to worsen over time. 

You can file a claim if you saw your doctor with symptoms, and they said there was nothing wrong. Or, they might have downplayed your condition and delayed your treatment. Alternatively, your doctor might have given you the wrong diagnosis followed by unnecessary treatment and surgery. 

You should contact a solicitor to ask for advice on your experience with misdiagnosis.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.