Today in terrifying: a report released by the Institute of Medicine reveals that most Americans will receive an incorrect or late diagnosis at least once in their lives. The report, made by an independent panel of pros, indicates that misdiagnoses impact about 12 million adults every year, and that the problem is only going to grow as modern medicine becomes more and more intricate. The panel calls for “urgent change” to improve the statistics surrounding this disturbing news.
When it comes to making improvements, the tough part for health experts is knowing where to even begin. Diagnoses are often a group effort with countless moving parts, including lab results, thousands of possible ailments, overworked doctors, and miscommunications with patients. It also doesn’t help that new electronic methods used to track patients’ health records can be tough to use, and that few healthcare facilities have a system in place to detect diagnosis mistakes. Most studies and improvements on patient safety focus on hospital errors rather than a mistake in a local doctor’s office or late diagnosis.
This all sounds pretty ominous, but the good news is that the healthcare community is becoming more aware of the issue. There may not be much we can do to improve the system individually, but what we can do is be advocates for our own wellness. If something feels off with your health, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Women are often socialized to worry that we’re “being a bother” or overreacting if we seek medical help for what turns out to be a false alarm, but that’s never a reason to risk your life. The Washington Post recommends that patients pay close attention to past treatments we’ve undergone, keep a running list of our medications and history that we can share with doctors, and be very concise when describing symptoms. Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t give up until you have an answer!
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