When we feel unwell or when our body is giving us signals that something might be wrong, we turn to doctors to provide the support and care that we need, and trust they will be able to identify the cause of our health problems and help us heal. Trust is an important aspect of any doctor-patient relationship. Some people trust their doctors so much that they don’t even think about questioning their decisions or asking for a second opinion.
In an ideal world, our doctors would be able to provide the right diagnosis from the very beginning. However, in the real world, things are not always that simple, and receiving the right diagnosis when you have a health issue can turn into a long and complicated journey.
Sometimes, this journey also implies dealing with a medical misdiagnosis.
While the rates of medical misdiagnosis worldwide are not known, it is estimated that most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime. Despite all the advances in modern medicine, diagnostic errors such as late, incorrect, or missed diagnoses, continue to happen with increased frequency.
This is far from being a new issue. It’s a well-known problem that has been affecting the healthcare sector since forever, and that, unfortunately, hasn’t received enough attention.
Medical misdiagnosis can have terrible consequences for patients and their families, causing a lot of pain and suffering and sometimes resulting in serious injuries or even death.
If you have been a victim of misdiagnosis and you believe a body like the NHS was responsible for your suffering, you can make a claim against the NHS and receive compensation for the damages you’ve experienced.
But it would be a lot better if you would be able to avoid getting there in the first place. So, let’s see what you can do to protect yourself against misdiagnosis and receive proper medical care.
What is medical misdiagnosis?
But before we start discussing protective measures, let’s first find out what counts as medical misdiagnosis. Medical misdiagnosis occurs when a healthcare professional fails to provide an accurate diagnosis for the symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
Your doctor can either give you a wrong diagnosis or he may not provide a diagnosis at all, being unable to identify any medical condition that would explain your symptoms.
As a consequence, you’ll either receive inadequate treatment, which won’t help improve your health or it will worsen your condition, or you won’t receive any treatment which means your condition can progress, further deteriorating your health.
Some patients undergo unnecessary surgeries or take strong medicine that can cause irreversible damages. Both scenarios can lead to serious physical and emotional suffering that could have been avoided if you’d have received a correct diagnosis.
How to reduce the risk of medical misdiagnosis
Although medical misdiagnosis cases are a common occurrence, it doesn’t mean we should simply accept this reality and hope something like this will never happen to us.
There are certain measures you can take to reduce the risk of medical misdiagnosis and keep these types of issues at bay. Here are the most important steps you should consider.
Communicate with your doctor
The first thing you should focus on is building a solid relationship with your medical provider, built on trust and open communication. This also implies finding the right doctor for you – one that you feel comfortable talking to, who takes you seriously and who will listen to your concerns, without judging or dismissing you.
Your doctor is your trusted partner, so you have to work together as a team, and that can only be accomplished through proper communication.
Another aspect that will increase your chances of receiving the right diagnosis is accuracy. This means you should come to your doctor’s appointments well-prepared and strive to be as accurate as possible when presenting the symptoms to your doctor.
Writing things down can help you be more precise and clear during doctor visits, and share relevant information that can help your doctor establish an accurate diagnosis. Keeping copies of your medical records can also make a difference, ensuring no information gets lost along the way.
Sometimes doctors forget that patients are not trained to master complex medical terms and may talk to you in the same language they use to talk to their peers, without realizing it sounds like Chinese to you. So if you’re struggling to decipher what your doctor is saying, don’t hesitate to interrupt him and kindly ask him to repeat his explanations in a language that is more accessible to you.
Clarify any queries or points of concern you might have, and keep asking questions until things start making sense to you.
Do your research
Seeking medical care is the first thing you should do when you start experiencing symptoms. Only a trained medical professional is qualified to give medical advice and suggest a course of treatment. However, this shouldn’t stop you from conducting your own research.
Being proactive about your health and getting informed can help you avoid medical misdiagnosis disasters. So try to get educated on health matters and consult reliable resources that can help you along your healthcare journey.
Get multiple opinions
If you’re not 100% sure that your doctor gave you a correct diagnosis, the best thing to do is ask for a second or third opinion. Ask for as many opinions as you need until you feel you’ve found the root of the problem.
Sometimes, the only clue that your diagnosis is not accurate is a gut feeling and nothing more. You should never underestimate your instinct because one day it might save your life. But getting a different opinion is a smart thing to do even if you completely trust your doctor and have no reason to doubt his decision. As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.