Making a Diagnosis

We trust our doctors to make the correct diagnosis when we are ill but misdiagnoses are the cause of 40,000 to 80,000 hospital deaths every year. And an uncounted number of deaths occur due to mistakes made in the doctors office.

Doctors are often stumped when it comes to making a diagnosis. Informed as they are, doctors sometimes prescribe the wrong medication, and worst of all, misdiagnoses are the cause of 40,000 to 80,000 hospital deaths every year. An uncounted number of deaths occur because of mistakes made in the doctors office. Some symptoms require a doctor to patiently probe the patient and ask many questions and a 15 minute office visit doesn’t give the doctor enough time to do it. Doctors too often rely on technology when good old fashioned reasoning would better accomplish his purpose.

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Doctors often make mistakes when they take shortcuts or jump to conclusions. Then won’t budge when contrary evidence emerges. One study shows it’s not a lack of clinical knowledge that trips a doctor up but rather his biases. Robert Wachter, chief of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center said he tells a doctor to ask himself, “If you are wrong in your diagnosis, what is the thing you might have been wrong about? I’m trying to get them to question their own thinking.”

Besides relying on their first impressions, doctors often put too much value on their past experience, or defer to the old expression pounded into their head at medical school. “When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras, and as a result miss the zebra.” Doctors who pride themselves on their skills train constantly. They reread medical journals and go over patient files. They are always on the lookout for slip-ups.

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Some of the things you can do to help your doctor make the right diagnosis is to tell him your whole story. Don’t leave anything out even if it seems unimportant. Have the doctor verify any shocking lab test. Ask him to run a second test. After a diagnosis is made, ask your doctor three questions. Is there anything in my medical history that doesn’t fit with the diagnosis? What else could it possibly be? Might it be more than one thing? Be happy if your doctor tells you he doesn’t know what it is. Ask him to refer you to someone who does.


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  1. Very good. Well developed. I try to eat an apple a day to avoid this problem, but now a days I think even apples make us sick.

  2. Indeed do NOT leave anything out - no matter how embarrassing, it could really help them to help you!

  3. I agree with you Ruby! There should be no room for errors but what can we say, doctors are human too.

  4. It is important to let doctors know everything that’s worrying us, no matter how trivial it may seem to us. Excellent advice as always.

  5. I know doctors are human but they are playing with our lives. This is a very helpful article.


  6. Very good article. We all need to be proactive with our health for sure. =)

  7. The patient who does not tell the whole truth never helps a doctor or themselves.

  8. I totally agree with what you’ve pointed out here. Doctors are human; but when they make mistakes people can die.

  9. Keeping a secret from you doctor is rolling the dice with your health.

    That one thing you keep from him may be the key to the cure.

  10. It is helpful to not down your symptoms so that you don’t forget to thell the doctor anything. If you are not responding to treatment or you are not satisfied, keep going back. It is your life so make sure you a second opinion if you are not happy with the diagnosis or treatment plan.

  11. Doctors are only human. Sometimes we just have to trust them.

  12. Doctors are human too, so if we have not sure about the diagnosis it is better to take the second opinion.

  13. I agree with you, Ruby. Excellent article!

  14. I am totally agree. Great post.

  15. You raise important issue. Why do we always need second opinion? Isn’t there reliable diagnosis?

  16. The best way a Doctor can help us, is if they know all the facts. Every little bit counts. Great article, Ruby!

  17. You presented a good topic that thought provoking.

  18. You gave me something to think about.

  19. Yes, with symptoms similar for some diseases, nothing should be left out when one reports to the doctor.

  20. Excellent article

  21. You should always tell your docter the truth. Good article.

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