Reasons patients do not get the right diagnosis

By , K24 Digital
On Thu, 6 Jul, 2023 11:05 | 3 mins read
Doctors analyzing patients results.PHOTO/Pexel

1.Fragmentation of care

One of the growing trends in modern medicine is the continued fragmentation of healthcare.

This means that, instead of going to one doctor for all of your healthcare needs, you are more likely go to different specialists for various medical issues and treatment.

In turn, this results in people having multiple points of medical care, with different medical professionals ordering different tests and reading these tests, according to their specific perspectives.

As a result, no single medical professional generally has the whole picture of a person’s health, creating many opportunities for significant symptoms or test results to be missed (or misread) and for diagnostic errors to occur.

2. The real medical problem may be highly unusual

The healthcare provider might not consider a diagnosis that is very rare in general or for the age of the parent, for example, lung cancer in a younger person would be highly unusual. People with rare diseases are, especially likely to go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. According to the World Economic Forum, 40 per cent of patients with a rare disease receive more than one wrong diagnosis before the actual cause is found. What’s more, children with rare diseases can wait six to eight years to get an accurate diagnosis

3. Lack of time with patients

Research shows that, on average, doctors spend between 10 to 15 minutes with each of their patients during appointments.

This is not necessarily, because doctors don’t care about their patients, but instead, is usually the result of the high demand for care and the need to move on to other patients.

Unfortunately, these few minutes may not be enough time to discuss all of a patient’s symptoms and concerns, get a complete picture of their medical history, review their test results and make a proper diagnosis.

This, in turn, means that the lack of time that doctors are able to spend with patients often contributes to diagnostic errors.

If patients don’t end up going back to the same doctor (because, for instance, they get a referral to a new specialist), the cycle can start over again (with new doctors only getting a small picture of patients’ conditions), and proper diagnoses being delayed once again.

4. The patient is not entirely truthful

When a patient does not give true information or is scanty with details, it can lead to underdiagnosis or even misdiagnosis.

For example, cirrhosis of the liver may not be immediately considered in someone who has pain in the region of the liver, but claims not to drink alcohol.

5. Patient may have more than one medical problem

This may make the diagnosis process confusing. There may be conflicts among the drugs or supplements the patient already takes, leading to symptoms caused by those conflicts.

6. Doctor inexperience and/or overconfidence

In some cases, the physicians themselves may not have the experience necessary to recognise the symptoms of certain conditions, know when to call for certain medical tests, know how to properly read the results of these tests, leading to misdiagnoses.

In other cases, the opposite may be true – doctors may have significant experience, which may cause them to be overly confident in making diagnoses based on little or insufficient evidence.

This may, consequently, lead to overconfident doctors not considering changes in patients’ symptoms and/or possible problems with their original diagnoses.

7. Lack of diagnostic testing

A lack of diagnostic testing can contribute to diagnostic errors. In many cases, more than one diagnostic test is needed to get an accurate picture of what is going on in patients’ systems.

While patients, may sometimes fail to perform sufficient tests due to financial constraints, in other cases, a lack of diagnostic testing can be the result of: doctors’ inexperience ( physicians don’t have the experience to know when to call for certain testing); or doctors’ overconfidence where the doctors are so sure that they are right – even when they may not be – that they don’t end up calling for additional testing to confirm or possibly rule out their diagnoses.

8. Human problems

Human problems occur when standards of care, policies, processes, or procedures are not followed properly or efficiently. Some examples, include poor documentation and labeling of specimens.

9.Lack of follow Up

In many cases, patients don’t end up seeing the same doctor for every stage of their care.

This can be as a result of switching doctors (maybe because they switch insurers or they don’t like their first doctor) or because they are referred to other specialists.

In other cases, doctors may simply put the onus of follow up on patients, meaning that they tell patients to call them if anything changes.

The bottom line here is that it is usually unlikely that doctors themselves are taking the extra step to follow up with patients, check in about changes in their conditions and consider the possibility that there may have been a diagnostic error made during a previous visit.

This ultimately means that patients bear the negative effects of the lack of follow up, as diagnostic errors can cause serious conditions to become even more grave (and potentially even resistant to treatment and/or life threatening).

. 10. New illnesses

There may be no name for the symptoms someone is experiencing. Medical science may not yet have determined a named diagnosis.

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