Taking steps to reduce the risk of being misdiagnosed by a doctor

13665020_sAlthough advancements have been made in medical care, doctors continue to misdiagnose patients at an alarming rate. In developed nations, as many as 15 percent of medical cases are not diagnosed properly, according to The American Journal of Medicine. Tens of thousands of people lose their lives in American hospitals on an annual basis because of this issue and far more suffer from a devastating injury.

When people are misdiagnosed, they can be exposed to unnecessary and even harmful health care. For example, misdiagnosed psychological issues could result in the prescription of dangerous drugs, whereas cancer misdiagnosis could cause someone to undergo needless chemotherapy. In addition, diagnostic errors can delay proper treatment, especially when people have a serious disease or fatal condition that has been diagnosed as a different illness.

Potential consequences of a misdiagnosis

An article that was published in the Seattle Times highlights how prevalent and damaging these misdiagnoses are. The Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that roughly 44 percent of certain forms of cancer are not diagnosed properly. Not only do these errors place tremendous pressure on the health care system, but they cause considerable suffering for both patients and their families.

In 2012, an estimated $2.8 trillion was spent on health care in the United States and roughly one-third of this spending went towards misdiagnosed medical conditions. Aside from the financial setbacks associated with misdiagnosis, people who deal with this firsthand could suffer from other complications, including the following:

  • Life-threatening operations that are not needed
  • Significant pain
  • Scars and other bodily damage
  • Illness
  • Severe emotional distress
  • Job loss 

There are a number of factors that contribute to misdiagnosis, including a lack of communication, an overconfident or inexperienced physician, time constraints and insufficient training. Regardless of the unique details surrounding one of these incidents, patients have to know how widespread this dilemma is and do everything they can to avoid it.

Patients can take action

People can eliminate their risk of misdiagnosis by taking a proactive approach with their health care. First, it is important to plan ahead and gather a comprehensive list of personal medical history for the doctor. Second, people should thoroughly review their symptoms and be prepared to share every detail with their physician. Studying family medical history can also help provide insight into what someone is going through. Third, once a doctor believes the problem has been identified, patients need to discuss the diagnosis with that physician. If patients feel that something has been missed, they may want to consider getting a second opinion.

When someone experiences hardships due to medical malpractice, they should assess what they have been through and focus on moving forward. For some people, taking legal action may be necessary.