Having a medical crisis is a situation everybody would like to avoid. When serious symptoms begin to develop, most people will turn to their doctor or an emergency room physician, if necessary. In such cases, individuals must trust that whichever doctor provides treatment, the appropriate exams and tests will be conducted to ensure a proper diagnosis.
Unfortunately, data has revealed that misdiagnoses are common throughout the medical field, often leading to injuries that can last a lifetime or – in the worst cases – fatalities that could have been avoided.
How often do doctors misdiagnose a medical condition?
According to a study published in BMJ Quality and Safety, misdiagnoses in emergency rooms result in around the same number of fatalities as people who lose their lives to breast cancer each year – approximately 40,500.
It is not uncommon for a misdiagnosis to have serious repercussions for the patient. In 2009, researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that of 583 diagnostic errors studied, 28 percent led to severe consequences – resulting in either a permanent disability or the death of a patient.
Take steps to protect yourself from a misdiagnosis
While these statistics are grim, there is good news in that patients can take action to help avoid a serious diagnostic error. According to a survey conducted of over 6,000 doctors in 2011, 96 percent believed that these misdiagnoses were avoidable.
A good step for all patients to follow once they have received a diagnosis is to ask for a so-called differential. In other words, ask your doctor if there were other illnesses considered when diagnosing your symptoms. Then, ask why your doctor settled on your diagnosis and ruled out the other options.
In addition, patients should not be shy about asking questions. While a medical environment can be intimidating, ensuring you understand the information provided by your doctor is crucial.
If you are seeing more than one physician to treat your medical condition, ensure they all have access to all of your medical information, including test results and prescribed medications.
Once you receive a diagnosis from a physician, you can always see another doctor to get a second opinion. While this is clearly an important step if you feel your doctor has missed something, it can even be a wise choice when you feel confident in your physician’s assessment.
Of course, despite the action you can take to protect yourself, a proper diagnosis is the responsibility of the trained physician. If you have been injured due a doctor’s misdiagnosis, seeking the counsel of a skilled medical malpractice attorney will ensure your rights are protected.