Chest pain, breathing difficulties, fainting. Each year approximately 25 percent of patients admitted to medical departments with symptoms of serious illness are sent home again without receiving a diagnosis of the severe symptoms that led to their hospitalization, find Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital scholars. 

And that is in Denmark, where health care is free for citizens.

"Naturally, there is no need for a diagnosis if the examinations at the hospital disprove that there is a serious illness. So some patients will always be discharged without a specific diagnosis. But we are surprised that as many as one in four patients do not receive a specific diagnosis," says Clinical Associate Professor and Medical Doctor Christian Fynbo Christiansen, senior author of the analysis. 

The researchers did not analyze why so many patients are not given a specific diagnosis during acute hospitalization but Christiansen  posits a possible explanation:

"When the figure is as high as it is, we should consider whether these patients are adequately examined during the hospitalization. Because if this is not the case there can be a risk of both deterioration and re-hospitalization." 

The patients who did not receive a diagnosis before being sent home were on average admitted for a single day.

They say the study is the first in the world to map out diagnoses and chronic disease on a national level for all medical patients that are acutely admitted to hospital during the course of a year. In the study the researchers from Aarhus University analyzed data from 264,265 Danish patients who were acutely admitted to medical departments in 2010. 

The study also shows that almost half of the patients suffer from chronic diseases. As the number of elderly people increases, the number of patients with one or more chronic disease will also increase. Christiansen therefore believes that the results of the study can be used in the future planning of the health care sector:

"With the knowledge we have now, we should be especially careful planning the healthcare system, including the emergency departments at the upcoming so-called super hospitals, so they can handle a large number of patients who cannot be immediately diagnosed. It is clearly extremely important for both the individual patient and the health care system as a whole that patients with serious and critical diseases are diagnosed as well as possible when they are first admitted."