Misdiagnosis: Should Corporate America Get More Involved?

Updated on January 9, 2014

DavidSeligman_headshot_300DPIBy David Seligman

Right now, if you are sitting in a physician’s waiting room with three other people, statistics show that one of you are likely to receive a wrong or incomplete diagnosis. Misdiagnosis has become a public health crisis. This may seem alarmist given that we live in an age of such great medical advances, but it’s true. The repercussions affect employers of all sizes in every industry. So should companies get more involved?

Despite the “latest and greatest” medical technology and procedures, at least 15 – 28% of patients still get the wrong diagnosis, according to published studies. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, even doctors are not immune to misdiagnosis: 35% of doctors report errors in their own care of that of a family member.

It’s a problem that costs lives, and causes needless suffering.  Added to this, nearly one-third of the roughly $2.5 trillion spent each year on health care in the U.S. are considered to be wasted dollars – many of which are tied to misdiagnosis and medical error.

The human toll of misdiagnosis is tremendous. It deprives patients of needed care and exposes them to the side effects of inappropriate treatment. It generates untold expenses from incorrect treatment, surgeries and prescriptions, and can often mean deadly consequences when a condition goes undiagnosed and gets worse.

Well-meaning, but time-strapped doctors find themselves in an overburdened, fragmented health care system.  The bottom line is it’s hard to deliver high-quality care in a system in which doctors don’t have enough time with – and information about – their patients.

Now many Fortune 500 and 1000 companies, affected by lower productivity and higher healthcare costs, are getting involved and proactively asking the question: What can employers do to help reverse this phenomenon?

Many of these companies have implemented a wide array of care management, wellness, disease management and other programs designed to help employees get well and stay well. The challenge, however, is data showing that even many of the best-designed workplace programs don’t go far enough to address the core underlying problems in our health care system.  As a result, in spite of progress being made, misdiagnosis unfortunately remains a major problem – resulting in absent workers, poor health outcomes, wasted health care dollars, decreased productivity, and increased health and disability premiums.

Many of the country’s leading employers have shown that by integrating and collaborating with their health care programs, they actually improve the quality of care their employees receive – and positively impact their health care costs.

This innovative approach, attracting the attention of a growing number of businesses and organizations, is called “Clinical Integration.” Clinical Integration streamlines the many health benefits offered to employees, maximizes each one, and enables employers to create a much more personalized, cost-effective employee health care experience.  By doing so, these companies have been better able to target individual employees’ health needs with the right health services, grow vendor accountability, and improve how employees experience their own health care.

So how does it work?

Employers using Clinical Integration urge all of their health care vendors – from disability, specialty pharmacy programs and health plan care managers to disease management and wellness partners – to work together to make sure each employee in their program gets the right diagnosis and right treatment.

The power of Clinical Integration is it enables employers to make the most efficient use of their existing, valuable benefit offerings. It takes the guesswork out of whether employees are in the right programs, and gives employers and employees alike the confidence that they are on the right path to getting well and staying well. It also helps employers better communicate to their employees the useful services available to them – while impacting costs more positively.

Adopting Clinical Integration sends a clear message to a company’s health care vendors that there is no longer room for an overly simplified, “one-size-fits-all” patient approach in health care. Vendors must be accountable for ensuring every single employee gets the right resources based on his or her particular condition. Importantly, this more patient-centric process takes advantage of the fact that employees are individuals, each with their own particular needs. This approach, both pro-employer and pro-employee, benefits everyone.
Clinical Integration, together with clear communication with employees about taking charge of their own health and wellness, will make a great difference. Most importantly, they will create a healthier, happier, more productive workforce – while making a positive financial impact in the process.

David Seligman is Chairman and CEO of Best Doctors, Inc. (
www.bestdoctors.com), a global health company that brings together the best medical minds in the world to help members get the right diagnosis and right treatment.

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