Medical diagnostic errors are a common occurrence. These include delayed, missed or incorrect diagnoses, and the consequences to the patient can be serious.
There are various factors that contribute to diagnostic errors, and one of them may be time. The time allocated for patient visits continues to decrease due to various factors, and as a result, patients suffer in numerous ways.
Consequences of diagnostic errors
According to the Claims Journal, almost 50% of malpractice claims are due to diagnostic errors. There are about 12 million patients affected by diagnostic mistakes every year, and tens of thousands of people die annually due to these errors. Disability and serious health complications are other consequences a patient may suffer from.
A primary doctor’s role in diagnosing medical problems
Studies find that an inadequate initial patient assessment is one of the main causes of diagnostic errors. During this visit, a doctor takes a patient’s medical history and performs a physical exam. Because a primary care physician is usually the first professional a patient sees, conducting a proper visit is important for diagnostic reasons.
The risks of shorter doctor appointments
Over the years, doctor visits have gotten shorter due to profit needs and patient demand. The Armstrong Institute at John Hopkins Medicine states that it is common for physicians to schedule appointments in 15-minute increments, and some doctor’s offices have even shorter visits set aside for each patient. Short appointments often are not adequate to take an effective history, perform all the necessary tests and answer the patient’s questions.
There may be a temptation for a physician to prescribe medication based on symptoms and send the patient on his or her way instead of looking at the whole picture and determining all the possible issues. It often takes more time to find the main cause of the problem and make the right diagnosis, especially with certain health conditions. The sooner the physician makes the correct diagnosis, the sooner the proper treatment can begin.