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Poor doctor communication leads to misdiagnoses

Going to the doctor is rarely anyone's idea of a good time. However, there are times when it's certainly necessary. Understandably, once you get there -- you hope your doctor is listening to your complaints and taking them all seriously. 

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are times when a doctor either misunderstands what it is you are saying -- or worse -- is not even really listening to what it is you are saying. When this happens, the outcome can be an incorrect diagnosis and prolonged suffering. 

Is anybody listening?

According to research published in the journal Health Affairs, diagnostic errors impact about 12 million outpatient patients a year. To look further into why, researchers collected narratives from 184 patients. The information contained in these stories is eye-opening. 

  • Half the group reported that their doctor ignored reports of their changing health status. In these cases, either the patient or their family reported that their status was changing, but the doctor disregarded the information. 
  • Disrespect, including mocking and stereotyping, was a contributing factor in some misdiagnosis cases. 
  • Patients told stories of failure to communicate, which included not returning phone calls or refusing to answer questions.

Broken trust

As patients, we put our trust in doctors. We rely on them to listen to our concerns and make a proper diagnosis. We never want to think that bias is going into decisions about our health and we expect to have their full and complete undivided attention.

As a patient though, if you feel uncomfortable with your doctor or suspect they are not really listening to you -- or not answering your questions -- know that you are still in control. Seek out a second opinion and follow up with the clinician's office to let them know about your concerns. 

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