A medical misdiagnosis is not only finding the wrong illness, but it can also be the result of a doctor misjudging the severity of an illness leading to over and under treatment. Medical misdiagnosis is a serious problem in our health care system. Studies have found that about 20 percent of fatal illnesses are misdiagnosed. Despite significant medical progress since the 1930s, the medical community is distracted from the alarming rate of medical misdiagnosis. The rate of medical misdiagnosis has remained unchanged despite the significant achievements obtained since that time period.
Medical misdiagnosis can result in unnecessary and serious consequences to patients. Medical misdiagnosis can result in a patient being exposed to treatments, including medications, for problems they don’t have. In the meantime, the patient’s true diagnosis remains unknown subjecting the patient to unnecessary discomfort or pain and risks. More seriously, misdiagnosis can lead to serious complications or even be fatal.
Medical misdiagnosis is a result of many factors. Sometimes a patient’s condition is extremely rare, but more often there are other controllable factors. Some controllable influences are a result of the health care environment in general. Doctors often work under conditions where they are given short time frames for patient encounters, long hours, or disincentives for expensive diagnostic tests.
Doctors are human and they are only able to do as well as their education and training allow. Although they are extensively prepared for their profession, doctors are making educated guesses with available information (e.g., medical records, laboratory tests, patient symptomatic inputs). While there are various technologies available assisting doctors with medical diagnosis, health systems often cite the cost of such systems as not worth the expense. Unfortunately, patients feel the pain as they make unnecessary financial outlays for avoidable misdiagnosis, related wasted procedures, and inappropriately applied medications.
The current health care environment is not setup to prevent medical misdiagnosis. Medical professionals are not paid for quality diagnosis, but rather, they are paid to consult with patients, perform tests, surgeries if needed, and prescribe medicines. There is no penalty for failing to properly diagnose someone unless the severity reaches a level wherein malpractice can be demonstrated. Likewise, there is no bonus or economic incentive for curing someone. Pay-for-performance programs are mostly non-existent providing no incentive for quality effort and accurate medical diagnosis. Conversely, doctors are sometimes influenced to prescribe certain medications as a result of the perks provided by pharmaceutical companies.
Misdiagnosis Warning Signs
Some of the warning signs of a medical misdiagnosis are not seeing the results expected as a result of the doctor’s diagnosis and recommended treatment. In these circumstances, a reexamination of the diagnosis is in order. This secondary diagnosis may need to come from an alternative provider.
As test results are collected, ask the doctor to explain the results. Good medical providers encourage questions and respect concerns. If the doctor’s answers are vague or unexpected, then you might be seeing signs of an unsure or complete mistaken misdiagnosis.
Is your doctor overconfident or defensive about your questions or concerns about your diagnosis? There may be a tendency by your doctor to want to support the initial diagnosis. Once a certain clinical pathway is commenced, it may be difficult to change directions in the treatment mindset. A pathway can be created where all tests and information gathered is viewed from the perspective of this first diagnosis yet an alternative view is needed. As such, it is important for your doctor to be teachable willing to accept an alternative diagnose as new results and related information becomes available.
Does your doctor respect your inputs? Has your doctor ever told you that your symptoms are “in your head” or called you in some way “crazy?” Has your diagnosis ever gone from simply somatic to psychosomatic in nature? If so, you might need to seek a second opinion from a medical professional who values your described symptoms.
Misdiagnosis – What Can You Do?
You can help prevent medical misdiagnosis by being proactive about your medical care and treatments. Trust your instincts. You know your body the best. Don’t be afraid to question your doctor or seek a second opinion if your body is telling you something different. Do your own medical research. Be prepared to go into each appointment better prepared to know when your doctor is moving forward in the right direction, or you are in need of a second opinion.
If you have suffered as a result of a medical misdiagnosis, there are legal options available. Seeger Weiss LLP, with offices in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania has a team of legal professionals experienced in cases involving medical malpractice including misdiagnosis. Medical misdiagnosis can reach a level wherein a deviation from accepted standards of practice has occurred. When such a deviation occurs, unnecessary injury and harm (even death) may have resulted. In these circumstances, advice from an attorney or lawyer is warranted. The lawyers at Seeger Weiss provide a free initial case evaluation. Please contact Seeger Weiss for a case evaluation, or call toll free at (888) 584-0411.