WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – There are all sorts of diseases which come with a variety of symptoms. Getting the proper treatment is imperative but a new study suggests too many of us are not getting the right diagnosis.
That study released Thursday looked at a ten year period. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, it concluded that diagnostic errors are the most common, most catastrophic and most costly of medical errors.
“These findings are very alarming. We should all be concerned that this is a major public health problem,” said David Newman-Toker, MD, Ph.D. who is Professor of Neurology and Director of Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center For Diagnostic Excellence. He cited research published Thursday in the journal Diagnosis. It found 34 percent of malpractice cases resulting in death or serious disability result from an inaccurate or delayed diagnosis. The most common conditions involved in the diagnosis dilemma are stroke, sepsis and lung cancer.
“Diagnosis is hard. We have information coming at us from multiple different angles and there’s a lot of uncertainty in these situations,” said Dr. Newman-Toker. It’s little consolation to the more than 100,000 Americans estimated who die or are seriously disabled each year because of a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.
Diagnostic errors also come with an economic cost; one which Dr. Newman-Toker places at more than $100 billion. “There’s no one cause and no magic bullet solution to this problem. We’re going to have to take a multi-faceted approach to tackling this problem.”
Dr. Newman-Toker suggests more effective healthcare technology and improved teamwork among medical professionals but makes other recommendations, too. “Develop new measures and approaches to giving feedback to clinicians so they can develop better skills and diagnosis.”
It’s long been said patients are their own best advocate. So what can we all do to help reduce diagnostic errors? Dr. Newman-Toker said, “Patients typically leave with a diagnosis and a treatment and if they don’t get better sometimes they assume it’s just that the treatment is not working. But they need to stay vigilant about the possibility that they actually have the right treatment for the wrong disease.”
Dr. Newman-Toker also recommends when you show up for a doctor’s appointment, bring a written summary of your symptoms and problems. Also, ask really good questions like “What’s the worst thing this could be and why isn’t it that?” If your doctor can’t provide an adequate answer or seems upset by the question, you should probably get a second opinion.