We trust our doctors with our lives and listen to them as they figure out what our symptoms could be telling us about our health.
But sometimes, even doctors with many years of experience can still mistakenly diagnose their patients.
It happens more often than you realize.
And even though this has been a long-standing concern in the field of medicine, this is not the only issue surrounding health care professionals for quite a long time now.
For instance, in the Invega lawsuits, physicians have been accused of being showered with incentives and expensive gifts by Johnson & Johnson for them to write more prescriptions for the company’s antipsychotic medication, Invega.
I probably don’t need to tell you how a misdiagnosis can harm a patient’s health and wellbeing.
This is when a patient’s role proves to be important. As a patient, you should know what your rights and legal options are regarding a misdiagnosis.
But even more crucial than that is to avoid the consequences of diagnostic errors from happening in the first place.
Here are some ways to tell if you have received the wrong diagnosis from your doctor:
Your Symptoms Match more than One Condition
At times, when a doctor lacks experience, it can be challenging for them to differentiate one disease from another. When symptoms overlap, it may be difficult for them to give a diagnosis, as it is possible for an illness to resemble another illness through the similarities of their symptoms.
For example, doctors may confuse symptoms of lupus with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Your doctor should be doing everything to his ability to rule out other diagnoses in order to provide one specific and correct diagnosis.
Your Doctor Failed to Get all the Necessary Information
Doctors only have limited time to spend with their patients, and more often, they are distracted with other workloads.
That said, your doctor might not have gotten all the necessary information about your illness or condition. At least not enough to make a correct diagnosis.
If you have noticed that your doctor is not asking you questions or isn’t collecting information that could help determine a diagnosis for your illness or medical condition, it could be a problem.
As a patient, you can help by supplying information that your doctor might ask you, which can include the medications you have taken, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines, you or your family’s medical history, and the symptoms that you have and how long you have been experiencing them.
As all these can be difficult to get in a limited amount of time, your list could be very helpful in making a correct diagnosis.
And as a patient, you also have the right to ask your doctor how they came up with a certain diagnosis.
You Are Not Getting Any Better
After an appointment with the doctor and after they have given you a diagnosis, that’s when you start with the treatment for your symptoms.
This can be whatever your doctor recommends, like taking prescribed medications, or following a certain diet or other change in your routines.
However, there could be a problem when you notice that your condition is not getting any better.
It is important to bear in mind that you can always ask your doctor if there is a possibility that you may have another condition which may be different than the one they diagnosed you with.
Speaking up can prove to be more helpful than you may realize. For instance, if you have a more serious condition, you can actually treat the problem earlier if you can be given the correct diagnosis.
Alternatively, if you choose not to speak up and to endure your symptoms as they get worse, the reality is you are putting your own health in jeopardy.
Your Doctor didn’t Make You Undergo any Tests or Exams
Having a series of tests or exams helps a doctor diagnose a medical condition.
If, for example, you feel that your doctor didn’t exhaust all diagnostic tools available, or a specific test that might be necessary for your medical condition or illness wasn’t done, you can always tell your doctor if it is possible to take that certain test.
After all, doing only one test and saying nothing is wrong with you might be suspicious and might also lead to misdiagnosis.
Your Medication is Ineffective
Another sign of misdiagnosis is when the medications that the doctor prescribed are not working.
After all, medicines may interact differently with another drug a patient may be taking. Once you notice that the treatment given by the doctor does not work, it might be time to seek for a second opinion.
You might even encounter a doctor who just prescribes more and more medication, but in reality, they are not getting to the root of the problem and the treatment provided is doing little to ease your symptoms.
In some cases, a health care provider is just treating the symptoms. However, some of these symptoms may actually be a result of the mix-up of medication and their interactions with other drugs a patient may be taking.
Your Second Opinion is Much Different than the Initial Diagnosis
Patients always have the right to go for a second opinion.
There are times when you are not confident with a doctor’s initial diagnosis, or you just want to be sure about what medical problem you may really have.
Either way, getting a second opinion may be worth it for a number of reasons. First, the second doctor may have a different conclusion, or they may see something that the first doctor missed.
If your second opinion has a significant difference from the first diagnosis that you received, which may be a sign that your first doctor misdiagnosed you.
What Happens if You are Misdiagnosed?
When a person happens to be misdiagnosed, it can have serious consequences on their health.
A misdiagnosis can delay a person’s recovery and sometimes call for treatment which is harmful. Medical malpractice lawsuits are often caused by a misdiagnosis of an illness, or due to an injury.
If you are mistakenly diagnosed by your doctor, it can lead to delayed treatment, incorrect treatment, or no treatment at all. Your condition may be made much worse, which at times can result in death.
If you feel that you are not getting better after seeing your doctor, if you think you have been misdiagnosed, you should trust your instincts.
Returning to the same doctor and telling them your persisting symptoms is an option, but you can always see a new doctor for a second opinion.
How Common is a Misdiagnosis?
According to a report from the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, 12 million people from the United States get medically misdiagnosed every year.
Moreover, The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) reports that an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 individuals die every year from complications due to these misdiagnoses.
What is the Most Misdiagnosed Disease?
According to a recent study published in the journal Diagnosis, the three major illness categories which are most often linked to serious and life-threatening misdiagnoses are vascular events, infections, and cancers.
Additionally, the researchers identified a handful of conditions associated with around half of all the severe misdiagnosis-related harm or injury.
Among the conditions that were most commonly misdiagnosed were stroke, sepsis (blood infection), and lung cancer.
These three were followed by heart attack, blood clots, encephalitis and meningitis, as well as breast, prostate, and skin cancers.
What Could Cause a Wrong Diagnosis?
We seek for a doctor’s help in order to have appropriate treatment for a certain illness.
However, in some cases, medical professionals end up providing patients with a misdiagnosis through negligence, carelessness, or sometimes just a slip-up.
But a misdiagnosis, whether caused by a human error or sheer negligence, can lead to adverse health effects.
Medical patients can suffer from terrible consequences if they have been misdiagnosed.
At times, these effects do not only include additional health problems, but also medical costs for more unnecessary treatment needed for another condition.
Causes of Diagnostic Errors
Unfortunately, many unsuspecting patients suffer from a misdiagnosis every year. It’s actually something that happens far too often. Some of the most common causes of a wrong diagnosis include:
- Not enough diagnostic tests
- Lack of training for nurses/staff
- Failure to recognize symptoms of a certain condition
- Doctor’s inexperience and/or overconfidence
- Lack of time with patients
All of these factors can make a doctor guilty of providing a misdiagnosis on a patient.
And anyone who suffers from being misdiagnosed can be treated as a victim of medical malpractice.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a legal cause of action that occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional fails to provide appropriate treatment or gives substandard treatment which may cause harm and injury.
It may also cause death to patients.
Medical malpractice normally involves a medical error or misdiagnosis. It can also be a mistake committed by a health care professional when it comes to medication dosage, treatment, health management, or aftercare.
The good news?
Medical malpractice law makes it possible for patients to seek compensation for any harm or injury caused by sub-standard treatment.
How Can I Prevent Misdiagnosis?
There are things that can help decrease the possibility of you getting medically misdiagnosed. One way is to prepare the following on your next doctor’s appointment:
- questions you want to ask your doctor
- information on your medical history and your current health condition
- a copy of relevant laboratory exams and other reports ordered by other health care providers
- a list of all your medicines and supplements, as well as information on their dosages and how long you have been on them
- a list of your symptoms
The bottom line?
Do not hesitate to ask your doctor about anything that you don’t understand, and ask what next steps you could take after you have been medically diagnosed by your provider.