5 Tips To Avoid Misdiagnosis

Being misdiagnosed is not just a random occurrence.  According to an article in Kevin MD, misdiagnosis occurs as often as 44% of the time, depending on the illness. Here are five tips to reduce your odds of succumbing to this ordeal:

1. Be Aware of Family History

Know and remind your physician of your family medical history. Knowing that your mother had breast cancer may be a better predictor than even genetic testing. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other illnesses have a genetic link and can run in a family.

2. Ask Questions

Your physician may see as many as 50 patients in a day. Asking questions can help the doctor with his thought processes and provide key clues to a more accurate diagnosis.


3. Technology Can Be Wrong

Don’t rely on technology for a correct diagnosis. While medical technology plays a key role in pinpointing a diagnosis, studies show that it is no more effective at reaching the correct diagnosis than a doctor who asks pointed questions about your symptoms and your medical history.

4. Don’t Rely on Tests

Tests can be wrong. Some tests are inaccurate as much as 40% of the time because interpretation of the tests relies on judgment and experience.  Make sure your doctor has ample experience in the field of medicine you may fall under.

5. Second Opinions

Get a second opinion and start from scratch. Don’t relay information from Dr. #1 as this may influence the opinion of Dr. #2. Start over by describing your symptoms and family history. You may definitely want to get a second opinion if you are seeking treatment for back pain, headaches or other general complaint.


A report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2005 suggested that most cases of misdiagnosis stem from “premature closure” or doctors jumping to quick conclusions without considering all of the possibilities. Patients can be under diagnosed and over diagnosed. A patient can be given a diagnosis of a serious illness only to discover later that it was a symptom of something much more benign, such as menopause. Patients should actively participate in the diagnosis and treatment process, especially before starting any new medication. Make sure that your doctor hears you and review your medical records on a regular basis.

Many times I have requested and reviewed my own medical records and found multiple errors. Sometimes the doctor has it wrong and other times the error happens during transcription.  Physician offices and hospitals are now moving toward electronic medical records. This dramatically improves the accuracy of the medical record as physicians and other healthcare providers enter their own diagnoses and treatments electronically. Misinterpretation due to poor handwriting is no longer an issue or an excuse.

In summary, patients must act as their own advocates and take an active role in their health care. Do some research in the library or online. Follow the 5 rules listed above.  Keep your physicians’ name and number, as well as a list of all your medications with you at all times.

This article was written by Christine Schworer. She is a senior writer at www.Heil-Law.com in Orlando, Florida.