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Teaching Methods changed to prevent more medical misdiagnosis

In a past post, we discussed how better patient-doctor communication in Pittsburgh can help prevent misdiagnosed cancer and other serious ailments. For instance, patients are encouraged to ask physicians why they arrived at a particular diagnosis and also if there is a possibility that the problem could be something else. Doctors are also being trained to better assess situations and complete more thorough exams.

Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosing a potentially life-threatening disease has led to a paradigm shift in medical schools. Doctors are being taught how biases can lead to diagnostic errors, causing them to hone in on one certain diagnosis without considering other possibilities. For example, instead of determining that a woman with psychiatric problems and shortness of breath was simply having a panic attack, doctors should have considered the patient’s medical history as a whole. In this case the woman was also taking birth control pills and was a smoker. Her shortness of breath was actually caused by a blood clot in her lung and ultimately led to her death. Delayed or misdiagnosed problems such as these are fatal 14 percent of the time. Even if a patient doesn’t die, he or she suffers serious permanent damage in 19 percent of misdiagnosed cases and very serious harm in 16 percent of cases. Technology is also being used to prevent more medical errors; health care companies are mining the data from electronic health records to identify missed signals and reverse engineer programs to remedy the problem.

Physicians’ failure to diagnose cancer, heart failure or any other disease happens more frequently than most people realize. If a misdiagnosis has caused you or a loved one to suffer from a worsened condition or die, you may want to speak with an attorney about the merits of a medical malpractice suit.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “The Biggest Mistake Doctors Make,” Laura Landro, Nov. 17, 2013.

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