Anyone in Akron who is familiar with some of the medical dramas on television
today knows that TV doctors spend a considerable amount of time trying
to diagnose a patient. They spend time talking with the patient, pouring
over medical records and racking their brains trying to come up with a
diagnosis that explains a patient’s medical symptoms. In reality,
however, doctors don’t spend that much time with patients and are
often going from patient to patient with little time to think about the
person they just left. With such limited time to meet with patients, it
is no surprise that it is common for patients to suffer a misdiagnosis
of a serious illness.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
Internal Medicine, researchers identified several of the factors that
influence misdiagnosis. One of the largest causes was in the patient meeting
itself. Whether it was a problem with the physical exam or one with how
the doctor recorded or collected the patient’s medical history,
that meeting was the cause of eight out of 10 misdiagnoses.

Many in the medical profession have identified simple steps that doctors
can take if they want to lower the number of misdiagnoses. One thing that
physicians should do is to explain to patients the importance of communication.
While a patient may not think something is a symptom, a doctor might recognize
it for what it really is, but unless doctors have told patients that they
need to communicate any changes or list any and every sign or symptom
of an illness, doctors won’t be able to get the necessary medical
history to make the correct diagnosis. This may also include requiring
follow-up visits or phone calls to check on patients.

There are, of course, many other techniques that doctors can use to reduce
the number of misdiagnoses of serious illnesses, but it is also important
that physicians recognize their potential for misdiagnosis. If they don’t
think that they can miss an illness or injury, they may never take the
steps they need to take to reduce further problems.