What do you expect when you head to the doctor in a time of sickness or injury? Ideally, you leave a little bit better than when you walked in the place, yeah? And eventually, as time and the miracles of Western medicine take their course, you get back in decent health. That's what one would think. However, did you know going to the emergency room can actually end up killing you? (And not just financially, for the uninsured among us.)
There are an estimated 130 million emergency room visits every year. Of those 130 million, 5.7 percent—or 7.4 million people—are misdiagnosed. As Healthnews puts it, two percent of those ER visits (or 2.6 million) suffer “adverse events” thanks to misdiagnosis. Roughly 370,000, or 0.3 percent of those people, are seriously harmed due to medical errors. And that’s just at the ER. According to a 2014 report from the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, 12 million people are misdiagnosed in the United States, and between 40,000 and 80,000 people die as a result.
The study on ER misdiagnosis was conducted by Johns Hopkins University researchers in partnership with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. While the numbers are a bit alarming, the authors believe diagnostic accuracy in the ER is high. However, with the exorbitant costs of healthcare in America, it’s not too much to ask for 99.99999999% efficacy.
As you may expect, non-white patients are at a much higher risk of misdiagnosis. Dr. David Newman-Toker, director of the Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence at Johns Hopkins Medicine, notes that female and non-white patients are 20 to 30 percent more likely to receive a misdiagnosis. Plenty of this is due to the belief that for instance, strokes are often seen as a male’s disease, so women will get misdiagnosed for strokes. And the pain of Black people is too often ignored in a doctor’s office.
According to the study, strokes, heart attacks, aortic aneurysms/dissections, blood clots, and spinal cord compression or injuries account for most diagnoses that lead to serious harm—a whopping 39 percent. Not to be dark, but, in case of emergency... you might be screwed. Y'all be safe, tho!