The possibility that your doctor may have missed something important or just plain misdiagnosed you may not have entered your mind since your last visit — but it probably should.
A five-year study indicates that diagnostic errors are the No. 1 reason behind medical malpractice claims. Diagnostic errors are responsible for 33 percent of patient injuries. Surgical errors, which generally garner much more attention in the news, are only behind 24 percent of malpractice claims.
If you’re a patient, what can you do to reduce the risk that you’ll fall victim to a doctor’s error in judgment?
Try these steps:
Write down your symptoms
This is simple, but effective. It can be difficult to remember every symptom you have when you’re put on the spot by a doctor who seems like he or she is in a hurry to move on. Include in your notes when you think the symptoms started. Symptoms give doctors the all-important clues they need to make a good diagnosis.
Let the doctor decide what is wrong
A lot of patients pre-diagnosis themselves based on previous experience. For example, if you have had a lot of sinus infections, you probably assume the chronic headaches you’re having are more of the same old thing. However, if you tell your doctor, “I have a sinus infection,” instead of telling the doctor your symptoms and waiting on a diagnosis, the doctor may follow your lead and not look into the possibility of anything else (like migraines, tumors or other problems).
Find out what should happen after treatment
If your doctor makes a diagnosis and prescribes treatment, make sure to ask, “What should I expect?” If your condition doesn’t respond the way the doctor describes, make another appointment. Medicine is sometimes a little bit of guesswork — but you don’t want to wait around unnecessarily while you could be looking for another answer.
Seek second opinions and referrals
If you aren’t sure that your doctor is on the mark, get a second opinion. You have a legal right to get one. If you think you need a specialist, don’t be afraid to put your doctor on the spot. Ask for a referral outright and don’t back down.
Serious medical errors can deprive patients of both the enjoyment of life and life itself. Don’t allow yourself to be a malpractice victim — be your own best advocate.
Source: Modern Healthcare, “Diagnostic errors are largest contributor to medical malpractice claims,” Maria Castellucci, March 13, 2018