A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that, of patients who return unexpectedly to their primary care doctor after a visit, 40 percent of them have been misdiagnosed. An alarming statistic for sure, but not completely surprising given the way medicine is practiced today. Doctors are more overworked than ever, and can typically only dedicate about 15 minutes to a patient’s appointment.
But there is some good news associated with this finding: 80 percent of the misdiagnoses are attributed to miscommunication between the patient and doctor, and more than 50 percent of those miscommunications have to do with the doctor missing something in the patient’s medical history. Those stats may not sound like good news, but they mean that it’s within the patients’ power to improve their chances of being diagnosed correctly.
Here are 4 steps you can take in order to minimize the likelihood of being misdiagnosed:
Do your research. Be sure you’re seeing a doctor with good patient reviews, particularly for bedside manner. These are the doctors who’ve shown that they’ll go the extra mile to address a patient’s concerns. While it’s not advisable to self-diagnose, researching your symptoms online can help to produce a list of possible conditions you may want to ask about, or prompt you to find out what conditions run in your family.
Come prepared. Bring a list of your symptoms, along with a timeline of when you started noticing them and what you were doing and/or eating around that time. Also, bring a list of questions you have, so you don’t forget to ask the doctor anything.
Know your family and personal history, and be sure to share it. Most doctor’s offices ask for this information, so be sure you answer thoroughly. Ask your family members what they know, and be sure there’s nothing that happened to you in your childhood that you don’t remember. If you’ve neglected to inform your doctor’s office of something because you assumed it wasn’t pertinent, tell them about it now. Leave it up to the doctor to figure out what could be related to your current symptoms.
Be persistent. If you feel like your doctor isn’t giving you his or her full attention or is speaking over you, politely insist on being heard. And if there’s something you don’t understand, ask questions until you do. If you’re still not comfortable with how the appointment goes or suspect that you’ve been misdiagnosed, perhaps it’s time to find a new doctor and seek a second opinion.
Have you ever been misdiagnosed? Share what you learned from the experience below.