Misdiagnosis: What to do when doctors fail
According to statistics, in the United States more than 12 million people are misdiagnosed each year, and the number of annual deaths resulting from complications in these situations rises to over 40,000 people. Those are some sobering figures. Even with all the advances in modern medicine, there’s still a high risk that a doctor might fail to provide an accurate diagnosis.
While patients rely on doctors and healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care and help them overcome the health issues we’re dealing with, it’s important to also be aware of the limitations and flaws of the medical system. Because medical errors are a reality, they simply can’t be ignored and they can have a profound effect on one’s health.
What counts as misdiagnosis?
The most common type of misdiagnosis happens when a doctor diagnoses a patient with a different illness than the one they have. As a consequence, they will receive the wrong treatment, which means their condition won’t improve. Worst case scenario, the treatment they’ll undergo will have a negative impact on their health and the condition will worsen over time.
It’s also possible to become a victim of misdiagnosis when a doctor is not able to provide a diagnosis for the symptoms experienced. Medical professionnals can dismiss symptoms because they don’t seem serious enough and assume there’s no real cause of concern. Therefore, the illness is left untreated, leading to additional health problems.
Why do medical misdiagnoses happen?
The root causes of misdiagnoses vary from case to case. Here are the most common reasons:
Lack of training and experience – not all doctors have the same level of expertise or experience
Lack of time – there’s often not enough time to evaluate a situation thoroughly
Lack of information – the patient doesn’t provide all the necessary information to the doctor
Lab test errors – incorrect lab tests can prompt doctors to make a wrong diagnosis
Test results misinterpretation – the lab tests were accurate, but the doctor failed to interpret the result properly
Miscommunication between medical providers – important information can get lost along the way when there’s poor communication between healthcare providers
Atypical symptoms – where symptoms are very unusual it is difficult for to find the root cause
What to do in the event of a possible misdiagnosis
For someone having ongoing health issues who suspect their doctor might have misdiagnosed them, there’s no time to waste. They should take the necessary steps to protect their health.
No one knows a body better than its owner. If symptoms persist despite treatment and a patient feels like they’re not on the right path, they may well be right. Though there is no evidence at this point to prove a misdiagnosis yet, it’s said that one shouldn’t ignore your gut feeling. Sometimes, instinct can be the best advisor and a real lifesaver.
That doesn’t by any stretch mean one should base all of their health-related decisions on instinct alone – after all, medical professionals are highly trained and in most cases accurate. But if something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s important not to keep quiet. When health is at stake, one has to speak up. Even when health providers are reluctant and don’t seem to take concerns seriously, patients in this situation must insist until they are heard.
A second opinion
No matter how much effort they put into treatment and how experienced they are, doctors are only human in the end, and they can make mistakes. That’s why it’s important to seek a second (or a third, fourth and so on) opinion, and hear another doctor’s perspective.
It’s essential to share all the symptoms with all the healthcare providers on the case, leaving nothing out, no matter how sensitive or embarrassing the details might be. Things one might not deem important can turn out to be crucial for finding the root cause of symptoms and putting the right diagnosis.
Individuals who believe a misdiagnosis was the cause of suffering and resulted in personal damages, they might be entitled to compensation for their loss and should consider making a medical misdiagnosis claim. It’s important to be well-informed on the topic before starting the claim process in order to increase the chances of getting fair compensation and avoid mistakes. Navigating the healthcare and legal systems requires a lot of patience and effort, so it might be worth hiring an attorney to take most of the burden.
Keeping a journal
When dealing with health issues, it’s not easy to keep track of all the things one is going through, from medical exams and changing symptoms to the doctors seen or the treatments received so far. Things can get even more confusing when a case is difficult to diagnose. While all relevant information is kept in medical records, there won’t be any mention there of gut feelings or personal impressions, so it might be a good idea to keep a journal and write down every detail about the health journey. One day, this might help connect all the dots and find the correct diagnosis.
Being a health advocate
It might take years for a doctor to get to the bottom of things and find the culprit for the symptoms experienced. However difficult or long this process may be, it’s important not to be discouraged and keep on the trail for answers. Ones health is one’s own responsibility, and it’s worth fighting for. If doctors or the medical system seem to be tone-deaf, one has to insist, do some research (but take any information on the Internet with a pinch of salt), see even more healthcare providers, and do whatever it takes to solve the mystery. In the end, it’s widely accepted that being your own health advocate is the best option to lead a healthy and happy life.
The editorial unit
The material contained in this article is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on medical or any particular matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of this article’s information without taking appropriate professional advice.