Can You Help Prevent Misdiagnosis?

039711 MisdiagnosisMisdiagnosis is one of the most common medical errors in the United States. Some studies have found that the risk of a wrong diagnosis is as high as 10% to 15%. However, the question must be asked: Is there anything you can do to reduce the risk of your condition being misdiagnosed or wrongly diagnosed?

The good news is that there is! Being informed is half the battle. As an aware patient, you must be completely informed about all your symptoms and the possible diagnoses and treatment.

Begin by writing down all of your symptoms as they occur. Make a comprehensive list of symptoms so that you are able to inform the doctor at your appointment. Patients often neglect to mention key symptoms, underestimating their significance. This can open the door for a misdiagnosis. If you believe that there is something your doctor should know, tell her. Be specific: If pain is chronic, make sure the doctor knows about this. If your pain did not subside after taking a common painkiller, for instance, inform your doctor about this. Document dates, duration, treatment attempts, and observations. 

Give the doctor complete information about any medications that you are currently taking. It is best to have an accurate list of all your medications at all times, especially as you age and the number of medications increase. This list should include the medication, the dosage (how much you take), how often you take the medication and the indications for use. If possible, you should be able to tell the doctor when you started a particular medication. This can be important if you are experiencing side effects from medications you recently started taking.  Also inform the physician about any medications that you might have taken on your own to help relieve your symptoms, such as pain killers or anti-inflammatories.

Be sure to give the doctor complete information about your medical history. If you have recently suffered an illness, suffer from some condition like heart trouble, diabetes, or hypertension, or have recently been hospitalized or placed on any new medication, make sure that your doctor is familiar with these issues. You might think that a detail is unimportant, but it could help your doctor understand what is wrong with you.

Plan out your medical appointment long before it takes place. If you have undergone any kind of medical tests or diagnostic tests, take these reports to the office to show the physician. Remember, the more information the doctor has, the less likely you are to suffer a misdiagnosis.

Ask questions. If you are uncertain what the doctor is saying, ask the physician to repeat using common language. Many times doctors use acronyms that are not part of your vocabulary. Stop the doctor and ask what he or she means. Many times a doctor might throw out an alphabet soup of possible diagnoses. Make sure you understand the implications of your treatment.

Finally, if possible, have someone with you in the appointment who can take notes, remind you of your questions you intend to ask. Many patients are intimidated by a doctor’s demeanor and forget to ask important questions or exactly what the doctor says. A person who can write down the interaction and listen impartially may be able to help you think through the conversation after the doctor has left the room.

Remember, a wrong diagnosis could mean wrong treatment, which would possibly have deadly consequences. If you have suffered injuries as a result of a misdiagnosis or any other kind of medical error, speak to an Indiana medical malpractice attorney at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP.