You depend on your doctor to be able to tell you what is wrong and determine a course of treatment, but doctors, like everyone else, are prone to making mistakes. When physicians fail to diagnose your condition or diagnose it too late, though, the repercussions may prove serious and even life-threatening.
Unfortunately, doctors misdiagnose serious medical conditions entirely too often. AARP reports that American doctors misdiagnose more than 20% of all serious medical conditions and that their original diagnoses need updating in another 66% of cases. What happens when doctors misdiagnose you and is there anything you might do to protect yourself?
Repercussions associated with medical misdiagnosis
When doctors misdiagnose your condition, it may lead to serious complications and hardships. You may wind up undergoing intensive and unnecessary medical procedures, which may threaten your health and cost you a hefty sum of money. You may also miss out on potentially life-saving treatments, which is common among cancer patients who have their conditions misdiagnosed.
Research also suggests that medical mistakes lead to about 10% of all patient deaths. They also have a hand in between 6% and 17% of all adverse events reported by hospitals.
The importance of second opinions
Visiting another doctor for a second opinion is important when your physician tells you you have something serious, or when he or she wants you to undergo a serious procedure or treatment regimen. Also, if you have begun taking medication for a particular disease or condition and it is not working as intended, this may also merit a second opinion. Find more about misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose on our webpage.
You may be able to tell when something is wrong with your body, but you may not know the cause of your ailment or what you need to do to make it better. You count on your doctor to assess your condition, tell you what is wrong and what you need to do to make things right. Yet, medical misdiagnosis is more common than you may think.
According to AARP, today’s patients who have serious medical conditions have their conditions misdiagnosed about 20% of the time. The figure comes from a study involving almost 300 patients, the majority of whom did not classify as older adults.
Statistics surrounding medical misdiagnosis
The study also found that while 20% of patients received completely wrong diagnoses, another 66% received diagnoses that needed updating later on. Only 12% of patients studied received correct medical diagnoses from their primary care doctors following their initial visits. Other, separate studies have also shown that medical misdiagnosis is a factor in about 10% of all patient deaths.
Lowering the risks associated with misdiagnoses
When you receive a serious diagnosis or when your doctor tells you must have an invasive surgical procedure or treatment regimen following a serious diagnosis, seek a second opinion. Another doctor may be able to identify something the first physician missed or offer an alternative explanation for your symptoms. In some cases, seeking a second opinion may prevent you from having to undergo unnecessary or complicated treatments or surgeries your condition may not actually warrant.