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What causes doctors to misdiagnose patients?

Misdiagnoses have proven to be the most common type of medical error in the United States. When people in Providence County go to see their physicians, they trust that those practitioners’ expertise will lead to a correct diagnosis of their conditions. Yet it’s important to remember that diagnostic medicine is in essence a guessing game. You recite your symptoms to the doctor, and he or she makes a diagnosis based off of them. Laboratory tests and imaging studies are available to help confirm the doctor’s assumptions, yet in many cases, you won’t even progress to that point in an evaluation before your doctor settles upon a final diagnosis.

In a study shared by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, it was revealed that the most common cause of a misdiagnosis is simple physician overconfidence. Specifically, it stated that in many instances, doctors are so certain of their diagnoses that they often end the diagnostic process prematurely. Unfortunately for many doctors, it’s only through simple trial-and-error that they learn what the flaws in their diagnostic philosophies may be.

Yet what are you as the patient expected to do in this scenario? You most likely lack the clinical knowledge needed to question your doctor’s diagnosis. On top of that, you certainly don’t want to have to assume the financial burden of extra diagnostic tests if they’re not needed. Yet there are things you can do to help avoid suffering from a wrong diagnosis:

  •          Return immediately if your condition fails to improve or deteriorates
  •          Ask your doctor what other conditions you could possibly have aside from his or her assumed diagnosis
  •          Seek an immediate second opinion

While this advice shouldn’t be considered legal counsel, it certainly could keep your condition from worsening due to the overconfidence of your doctor. 

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Providence Personal Injury Office

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Providence, RI 02903

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