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Diagnostic errors are still a common problem

If you are like many people, you endure symptoms of illness for a while before seeking a medical opinion. In fact, it is possible that you make an appointment with a doctor or visit a New Mexico urgent care facility only after the pain has become too much to bear or the symptoms interfere with your daily life.

At this point, it is critical that medical professionals waste no time is accurately diagnosing your complaint. Unfortunately, you have no guarantee that will happen. In fact, from your first conversation with a member of the medical staff, you may already be on your way to a misdiagnosis that could cost you your quality of life.

The diagnostic process

Diagnosing an illness, including life-threatening illnesses like cancer, is a multi-step process. You may deal with many professionals personally, and your information may pass through the hands of technicians and physicians whose faces you never see. Mistakes can occur at any step in the process, including the following:

  • Failing to take your complete medical history
  • Neglecting to give you a thorough physical exam
  • Skipping the order of genetic or age-based screening
  • Ordering the wrong tests
  • Improper lab procedures
  • Misreading lab results or radiography
  • Failing to communicate test results to other doctors involved in your care
  • Failing to communicate test results to you

In ideal circumstances, your hospital or doctor's office learns from mistakes and has in place a system of checks and balances, so that one person is not making the mistake that leads the rest of your medical team in the wrong diagnostic direction.

Where are the most mistakes?

When you first enter the examining room, your nurse or practitioner immediately starts the diagnostic process. When he or she asks how you feel today, it is not out of politeness. Follow-up questions should draw out where you have pain, discomfort or other symptoms. You should then answer a series of questions about your medical and family history. Studies show that more than one third of diagnostic errors occur at this very early stage when medical staff fails to get a thorough history of your medical care.

However, more than half of the diagnostic errors occur in the labs, especially in radiology. Mistakes in conducting tests and interpreting their results can lead to devastating consequences, such as the unchecked progress of a deadly cancer or infection.

You deserve the highest quality care from your medical team. A doctor who skips critical diagnostic steps or dismisses your concerns may carry responsibility for your decline in health. When this occurs, you have the right to seek whatever legal recourse is available to you.

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