While anyone who wants to practice medicine in Hawaii most first undergo extensive training, doctors, too, are human. They, like everyone else, are prone to making occasional errors when diagnosing patients. The stakes are undeniably high when a physician makes a significant diagnostic error, however. In some instances, doctor mistakes can mean the difference between you recovering from your condition and succumbing to it.
If, for example, what you really have is cancer, but your doctor diagnoses you with something different and begins treating you for the wrong condition, your cancer can potentially progress to the point where you can no longer fight it successfully. In other words, a doctor’s mistake can have a significant impact on your prognosis when you face something serious. This is why many people who receive serious diagnoses, or who suspect they have serious conditions, seek second medical opinions.
An alarmingly pervasive problem
Just how often do doctors make diagnostic mistakes? According to AARP, in a study involving patients who decided to seek second opinions after receiving initial diagnoses, it found that more than a fifth of them received diagnoses that were flat-out wrong. Another 66% of patients who sought second medical opinions, meanwhile, received diagnoses that were at least partially inaccurate, with only about 12% of those surveyed receiving accurate diagnoses from their primary care doctors.
While these figures are troubling on their own, so, too, are the numbers relating to diagnostic errors in hospitals. Estimates indicate that about 10% of all patient deaths are, in some way, linked to diagnostic errors, and that somewhere between 6% and 17% of adverse events reported in hospitals also involve diagnostic medical mistakes.
The value of a second opinion
Because diagnostic errors are so commonplace and so potentially dangerous, seeking a second medical opinion is always wise when you receive a serious diagnosis, or when you suspect something serious ails you.
A fresh set of eyes can often catch errors that a primary care doctor does not, so do not underestimate the importance of seeking a second medical opinion.