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What can Oregonians do to help avoid a failure to diagnose?

Going to the doctor can be intimidating for many of Oregon’s residents. After all, many of us have been taught to see medical professionals as a sort of authority figure. Our nervousness around doctors might cause us to have difficulty communicating with them, which, according to one expert, can increase the likelihood of misdiagnosis, especially when the average doctor only listens to his or her patient’s symptoms for about 10 seconds. That’s right. Ten seconds. Doctors are being forced to see more patients in less time, and that can be problematic for patients who expect complete and adequate care.

So what can patients do to help avoid a failure to diagnose? One expert suggests a patient tells the doctor his or her story. This means coming to a doctor’s appointment prepared with a list of medications currently being taken, a complete medical history, and an ability to describe the current problem, including when it began and what the patient was doing when he or she first noticed it. It is hoped that by clearly and quickly communicating with a doctor unnecessary tests will be avoided and the condition will be rapidly identified and treated.

This may sound easy enough, but sometimes even clear communication is not enough for a doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. In these cases, a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis can lead to a worsened condition. Delayed treatment may cause the condition to progress, severely impacting the health and well-being of the patient.

If a doctor’s misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose is caused by him or her falling below the standard of care owed to his or her patients, then a medical malpractice lawsuit may be filed against him or her. Proving a breach of that duty of care can be complicated, but the fight may be well worth the trouble. Victims who succeed are many times awarded compensation for their damages, allowing them to obtain the care they need without succumbing to undeserved debt.

Source: The Denver Post, “Is Your Doctor Listening to You? Here’s How to Avoid a Misdiagnosis,” Claire Martin, June 30, 2014