How You Can Avoid Misdiagnosis By Your Doctor
Misdiagnosis occurs in 10-15% of doctor visits according to some studies. Why do doctors make mistakes? First of all, getting the right diagnosis isn’t easy. Doctors first have to deduce what might be wrong with you in a limited time, i.e. during a few minutes in an office visit. If the doctor is interrupted, rushed or distracted he might arrive at incorrect conclusions. Doctors also rely on their staff to gather information, and if they enter the wrong information on intake records, the doctor can be misled in the wrong direction. In addition, laboratory and radiology results are wrong or misleading 2-4% of the time. And then, there is simple human error by doctors jumping to conclusions. For example, a sloppy appearing patient may lead a doctor to conclude the patient is a heavy drinker. A physician might jump to the conclusion that chest pain is heartburn in a healthy appearing patient and not investigate the much more serious possibility that a serious heart condition is to blame.
How can you avoid misdiagnosis? Try to schedule your appointment early in the day when the doctor is less likely to be fatigued. Prepare so that you have thought through all the information you need and want your doctor to know. For example, prepare a list of your symptoms and when they began. Be prepared to give your doctor an accurate medical history of any conditions you have, that you are being treated for, or that you have had in the past. Bring a list of any medications you are taking or have taken in the past but are no longer taking. Finally, be proactive. Ask direct and specific questions and insist on answers. Think about the questions you want answered before you go to your appointment. Make a list of them. Ask your doctor directly and politely insist on an answer. Of course, ask for a specific diagnosis at the end of your visit. If you are sent for diagnostic studies, make sure you get the results and that your doctor gets your results. Be informed about your results, and don’t just assume results will be reported to you and your doctor. If you’re not getting better or aren’t getting answers, get another opinion.
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