Serious diagnostic errors that can result in injury, complications, or death, are a medical professional’s greatest fear. Of course, every doctor wants to do everything they can to reduce the risk of this tragedy occurring. Fortunately, decades of research and practice have illuminated several business practices that you can implement in order to minimize the risk of diagnosis issues.
Doctors don’t have all the answers. Unfortunately, far too many doctors aren’t willing to ask for outside help or assistance from other specialties. However, like any profession, doctors must work to overcome their own biases and reach out to colleagues. Studies have shown that seeking consultations is a great way of reducing diagnosis issues as other specialists may catch symptoms that you may miss because you aren’t trained to see them. Consulting other specialties can provide you with a new perspective and reduce overconfidence, ultimately leading to a more accurate diagnosis.
The duration of an appointment is directly correlated to a more accurate diagnosis. While there is no set amount, every doctor must leave ample time to meet with patients, hear their concerns, give them an adequate examination, and review notes and relevant data. Remember, adequate patient time goes beyond just saving a patient’s life. A review of multiple studies regarding medical malpractice claims found the majority to be due to missed diagnosis with death being the consequence in 15-48% of the cases. In other words, reducing misdiagnoses can help keep you out of legal and financial jeopardy.
Numerous health care experts have noted that patients should be actively involved in their own diagnosis process. They should be empowered to ask questions, communicate their needs, and review their medical notes for errors. Obviously, each doctor must use his or her own clinical judgment, but patients who feel engaged in their diagnosis process are more likely to build trust with their physician, have a positive experience, and ultimately, receive a more accurate diagnosis.
Reducing misdiagnoses is a challenge because it often pushes doctors outside of their normal comfort zone. It involves more patient engagement, reliance on others and changes to schedules, which may be uncomfortable or inconvenient. However, there’s no doubt about it: It’s worth it. The goal of medicine is not to engage in a process or satisfy one’s own ego. It’s to save lives. Following these three steps above can help do just that.