The difference between a misdiagnosis and a missed diagnosis

On Behalf of | Oct 27, 2022 | Professional License Issues |

If someone said to you right now that they were a victim of misdiagnosis, you may never know if they truly said “misdiagnosis” or said the very similar term “missed diagnosis”. When spoken orally, misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis seem like the same exact term, but in writing, it’s clear that these two words aren’t the same.

It can be confusing to differentiate between a misdiagnosis and a missed diagnosis, and dictionaries can only help you so much. When defending your professional license it may be in your best interest to know what each term means. Here’s what you should know:

They sound similar, but they have different implications

When a medical practitioner diagnoses a patient with an illness or condition, it’s often after some analysis and comparison – but that doesn’t always guarantee a patient has that medical condition. If it turns out that a patient doesn’t have that particular illness or condition, then they may accuse the doctor or nurse of misdiagnosis. In other words, a misdiagnosis occurs when a patient’s diagnosis is wrong. That can lead to unnecessary medical treatment that could make a patient sicker. 

Conversely, a patient may be showing symptoms of an illness or medical condition and sees their doctor for an analysis. If the patients concerned were too quickly dismissed or the doctor only did a cursory exam before declaring everything okay, that’s a missed diagnosis. That can lead to worsened medical conditions and a poorer prognosis through the lost opportunity for earlier care.

When defending a medical decision, it’s important to spot the distinctions between the two. A doctor accused of a misdiagnosis needs to show that their reasoning was logical, while a doctor accused of missing a diagnosis needs to show that they took all the appropriate steps to find out what was troubling their patient given their knowledge.

Doctors and medical practitioners do their best when providing treatment for their patients, but they’re only human, too. Despite that, one mistake could lead to a medical malpractice claim, jeopardizing a professional license. Understanding what you’re accused of doing (or not doing) can help better inform your defense.