Understanding False Positives And False Negatives

False positives and negatives are a huge problem in the health care industry. Most patients, however, are unaware that their symptoms could prompt incorrect or missed diagnoses. Read on to learn how and why these errors occur:

False Positives

The same set of symptoms can point to multiple medical conditions. False positives occur when results indicate that a particular illness or disorder is present — even when it’s not.

False positives are particularly common among lab results in general practice. Many clinics are heavy-handed with ordering tests — a huge problem, given that by their very nature, these tests almost always classify somebody as having abnormal results. For example, if 100 percent of patients at a clinic were perfectly healthy, that clinic’s lab testing system might still flag 5 or 10 percent of patients’ test results as ‘abnormal.’

False Negatives

Rather than test results suggesting a condition that isn’t actually present, false negatives refute an illness or injury that the patient actually has. This commonly occurs with Lyme disease; patients who suffer flu-like symptoms often test negative shortly after contracting the disease, often due to a perceived lack of antibodies in the bloodstream. A 2015 report published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases indicates that diagnosis tools such as the ELISA and Western blot miss up to 60 percent of Lyme disease cases.

In a perfect world, every medical test would enjoy a 100 percent accuracy rate. Unfortunately, false positives and negatives remain a significant hurdle in the health care industry. It’s tough to predict when diagnoses will prove accurate, but patient awareness can play a huge role in determining whether incorrect test results or diagnoses are eventually caught.

Did false positives or negatives play a role in your current suffering? Regan Zambri Long PLLC can help you hold responsible parties accountable. Reach out today to learn more about our approach to medical malpractice.