Do Doctors Really Know Best?

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Six Million Suffering Annually from MisdiagnosesYour doctor knows best, right? Not necessarily. And a new study is showing they could be wrong more often than you think.

People who don’t know something are often willing to take the advice of others who seem more educated in a particular topic. This is especially true when you’re talking to a professional, such as a lawyer, mechanic, or doctor. You expect them to know what they’re talking about because of their title and because you have little to no idea about the subject matter.

However, it’s quite common for people to make the mistake of assuming that just because a person is a professional, they are infallible—it’s easy to assume so because they know better than you. We think they know it all, but this is simply not the case. People are people regardless of their profession, and they are just as prone to mistakes as anybody else.

The numbers back this up. A report published in the BMJ Quality & Safety journal suggests that one in every 20 adults who make an emergency room visit or go to a community healthcare clinic are diagnosed incorrectly. This translates into roughly 12 million Americans who could be affected annually, while six million could potentially experience harm as a result of such mistakes.

The study noted that people with conditions as serious and diverse as heart failure, pneumonia, anemia, and lung cancer could all experience serious, potentially life-threatening problems that might go unrecognized by a doctor. (It may be crazy to think it, but as the study shows, even doctors can be wrong…)

There are a number of reasons why doctors could miss a diagnosis: perhaps they don’t have access to or knowledge of the latest technology; maybe they are having a bad day and are distracted; their chaotic work environment could be causing too much stress for them to perform optimally; or, quite frankly, maybe they are just bad doctors.

This obviously doesn’t mean you should stop seeking the help or following the advice of medical professionals, but just that you should stay active in your own health care. When seeking help, it’s important to get a second opinion. For example, if you visit an emergency room or clinic, be sure to make a follow-up appointment with your family doctor soon after. Your family doctor knows your overall health, has a relationship with you, and will be more knowledgeable about what may be of concern regarding your personal situation. They can also recommend trusted specialists who are trained in specific fields of practice.

In the end, though, the best way to take care of your health is through preventative measures. Do your best to eat a healthy diet, get some exercise, and avoid harmful lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking. Finally, try to schedule appointments with your physician once or twice a year to improve your chances of catching any problems before they advance too far.

Source  for Today’s Article:

Aleccia, J., “Misdiagnosed: Docs’ Mistakes Affect 12 Million a Year,” ABC News web site, April 16, 2014;, last accessed May 6, 2014.