Can you prevent a medical misdiagnosis?

Do you know that your odds of being misdiagnosed by your doctor are about one in 20? That's a pretty scary statistic because a misdiagnosis can -- at the very best -- delay important treatment for whatever you do have wrong. At worst, it could injure you or even take your life.

Fortunately, you are not entirely without power in this situation. You can take the following steps to prevent a misdiagnosis:

1. Keep your own medical file

In these days of worldwide automation, it's easy to believe that your medical records can be obtained through a few strokes of the computer keys -- but that's hardly the case. Electronic records have numerous problems, not the least of which is that one system seldom talks to another.

The only way to make sure that your doctor has a complete medical record is to compile your own and take it with you when you visit a new physician.

2. Have a plan when you go in

You can plan ahead of time what you want to address with your doctor. Knowing how to rattle off a concise list of your symptoms and concerns can save time, meet the doctor's need for expediency and put a focus directly on your problem.

Drawing attention to your condition and clearly stating that you want your doctor to reevaluate his or her diagnosis can force a doctor to look at something again -- or send you for a second opinion.

3. Follow your own instincts

If you're not convinced of a diagnosis and your doctor doesn't seem to listen, it's time to make a change. If you're in a hospital's emergency room, ask for a second doctor to consult and ask them to explain what other conditions they considered and how those conditions were ruled out.

You don't have to be aggressive to get what you need. In fact, studies indicate that a calm, neutral demeanor gets a better response when patients challenge a doctor's diagnosis.

If you or your loved one suffered from a medical misdiagnosis, find out more about your legal options.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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