Doctors have two main tasks when you go to visit them. First, they need to diagnose what is wrong with you. Second, they need to decide the best way to treat the problem. If they don’t get the first part of their job right, they cannot get the second part right.
Medical misdiagnosis is a significant problem. Many patients suffer needless harm due to it. An article published in the British Medical Journal estimates that U.S. medics misdiagnose around 12 million patients each year. It estimates around half of these errors cause severe harm to the patient.
Medical providers must act to reduce misdiagnoses
Here are some actions medical providers should be taking to reduce the chance of diagnosis errors:
- Allocate sufficient time: If you have ever been in and out of the doctor’s office in five minutes, you may feel that the medic who saw you was not giving you sufficient attention. A correct diagnosis needs time.
- Improve communication: If you were in a hospital for a few days, several different sets of staff might have attended to you. They might not have passed on vital information if adequate systems were not in place.
- Increase training and feedback: When a doctor qualifies, they are not the finished article, far from it. Being a professional doctor requires a lifelong commitment to learning. Learning from past experiences is essential and requires a constant feedback loop. Those in charge need to monitor performance and provide extra training when necessary.
Physicians are not infallible. They will always make the occasional mistake. Medical authorities know this. They need to do all they can to prevent medical errors and implement backup systems to spot mistakes before they cause serious harm.