Prevent diagnostic errors by taking a proactive approach

Misdiagnosis is a common problem in the U.S., but people can protect themselves by being more proactive with their doctor.

A study last year pointed out that one of the biggest medical problems occurring today is misdiagnosis. According to CBS News, 12 million adults are misdiagnosed in the U.S. every year. Furthermore, analysis of the data used indicates that half of these cases may cause harm to the patient. Researchers said that misdiagnosis can occur when doctors don't talk to patients about their conditions and fail to listen to them when they do. The data also indicated that many times, it is doctors in offices and outpatient clinics who are making the errors.

People who live in Provo, and elsewhere, trust their doctor to tell them what is causing their condition. When a doctor fails to identify the warning signs of a serious illness like cancer, the patient is the one who may pay the ultimate price. However, patients can lower their risk of misdiagnosis by taking a proactive role in their health care.

Keep a copy of all medical records

A research survey conducted on cancer misdiagnosis reported that there were contributing factors. The National Coalition on Health Care states that one of the biggest was missing information about the patient. For example, a doctor who refers a patient to another doctor or a hospital may have failed to keep an accurate account of the test results conducted on the patient or the patient's overall health.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality states that one way patients can help doctors is to make sure they have all information pertaining to medications they are taking as well as copies of test results and previous health conditions. They should also bring any medications they have been prescribed with them to a new doctor.

Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion

While people want to believe that their doctor has all the answers, this is not always the truth. If people are not fully confident in their doctor's diagnosis, they should meet with another doctor. Some doctors rely on technology and processes to diagnose their patients while others may rely on gut feelings and simple intuition. In many cases, wrong diagnoses are discovered because a second doctor followed his or her feeling that there was something else causing the problem.

Doctors are also under pressure to see more patients in less time, and this means they may miss important information from that patient. If a doctor simply isn't listening, it may be time to find a different doctor who will.

Follow up on tests

The New York Daily News reported the story of a woman whose lung cancer was missed by doctors at a county hospital. The hospital had conducted a test on the woman but the test results were never looked at by doctors for two years. By the time a follow up was conducted, the woman's chest mass had grown into a terminal condition.

Patients can avert such a tragedy by keeping track of all tests and then asking for the results of those tests. However, in the event that a hospital or doctor fails to follow up or misinterprets the tests, it would be a good idea for the injured patient to meet with an experienced attorney to discuss their legal options and rights.