Taking action to prevent delayed or misdiagnosis

Sunday April 15, 2012

Preventative care, including regular check-ups and testing should provide some peace of mind to detect disease, including cancer. If you have symptoms and you visit a doctor, you hope that appropriate diagnostic test and procedures are taken to identify the cause of your symptoms and to rule out any life-threatening disease. Unfortunately, some patients are victim of medical malpractice, including missed opportunities, doctors’ mistakes and other incidences of neglect.

One patient, who suffered from unexplained back pain and extreme fatigue, was misdiagnosed in 2007 and 2008. Doctors failed to diagnose her with cancer and nowl,she is dying because of what she believes were systemic failures in communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals. To help prevent future mistakes and misdiagnoses, she offers the following advice to patients:

1) Be your own health care advocate, or get help from a family or friend if you are not able advocate for yourself. Ask questions at every visit and be wary of conflicting test results.

2) Insist on follow-up tests to resolve conflicting results. After you get results, demand definitive answers and make sure to rule out worst-case scenarios.

3) Request a primary care doctor also review your case with your specialist.

4) Choose a primary care doctor who takes time, is attentive and dedicated to finding answers in your case.

5) Go out of network, if necessary, to find a primary care doctor who will be your advocate and follow-up on any discrepancies.

6) Make sure specialists will take a “fresh look” at your case and not simply accept a prior diagnosis.

7) When possible, make use of institutional patient advocate resources.

8) File any complaints as soon as possible to ensure a faster review of your case.

Source: The News & Observer, “The pain of a missed diagnosis,” Karen Holliman, April 10, 2012

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