Study: Diagnosis errors major health care issue affecting most, severe consequences for some

A major report predicts most people will experience at least one wrong or delayed diagnosis in their lifetime.

Getting the right diagnosis, at the right time, is key to good health care. Tuesday's report from the Institute of Medicine says errors involving diagnosis don't get enough attention, in part because there's no good count. One conservative estimate suggests 1 in 20 adults who seek outpatient care each year experiences a diagnostic error, adding up over time.

Some have devastating consequences, such as missing cancer until it spreads. Other times, patients recover anyway and may never know there was an error.

The report says improvement requires better teamwork and communication between health providers — doctors, nurses, radiologists, lab workers — and urges patients to ask, "Could it be something else?"