Misdiagnosis and You: What Patients Need to Know
Our blog earlier this week about a Florida doctor misdiagnosing patients with multiple sclerosis is a rare example of how health care professionals can sometimes “get it wrong”. However, non-criminal examples of misdiagnosis are far more common.
According to a study in BMJ Quality & Safety, 12 million adults seeking medical care are misdiagnosed every year – about 1 out of 20 adult patients. In half of these cases, the potential for patient harm exists.
Another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine claims the most common reasons for misdiagnosis are problems ordering diagnostic tests, failure to provide accurate medical history and physician errors. The symptoms that most often lead to a misdiagnosis include cough, abdominal pain and shortness of breath. In some cases of misdiagnosis, patients may be given unnecessary treatments or delayed treatments, both of which can cause death or serious injuries.
How Can Patients Avoid Being Misdiagnosed?
Authors of the JAMA Internal Medicine study suggest patients be proactive in their care to avoid being misdiagnosed. Specifically:
- Patients should explain their medical history in as much detail as possible. The more facts doctors and hospitals have about patient and family history, the less likely they are to misdiagnose.
- Always follow up and get test results from doctors and hospitals. Patients should go back in a second time if they are uncomfortable with diagnoses.
- If need be, get a second opinion. If the first doctor or hospital made mistakes diagnosing a patient, a second opinion might catch the error.
Patients should always be proactive in their medical care. Doctors and hospitals are not perfect, and sometimes they get it wrong. These medical mistakes can have life-altering or fatal implications.
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