Seeking a medical second opinion is a good idea

Nurse and doctor examining xrayMany people put their full trust in the American health care system, and accept the diagnoses given to them by knowledgeable physicians. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, however, between 10 and 20 percent of medical diagnoses in America are inaccurate, costing patients unnecessary medical expenses and potentially their lives. These staggering statistics show the prevalence of doctor error, and encourage many people to seek a second opinion after receiving an initial diagnosis. People are also prompted to visit another physician when their primary medical doctor fails to provide a diagnosis at all.

Complications of misdiagnosis

CBS News reports that approximately 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed each year. Misdiagnosing a patient’s condition can cause a patient to undergo unnecessary medical treatments, which in some cases can actually harm a patient who is being treated for the wrong condition. A wrong diagnosis may result in a patient taking prescription medications to treat a condition they do not have and needlessly experiencing any side effects that may be caused by the medication. When a patient receives a medical misdiagnosis, they are not getting the treatment needed to resolve their actual condition, which may further develop into something far more problematic in the meantime.

The mother of a 4-year-old girl in Oregon is currently suing a hospital for medical malpractice after medical workers failed to properly diagnose her daughter with a deadly strain of E. coli. The young girl was misdiagnosed twice at the hospital and was told specifically that her E. coli test was negative. Unhappy with the diagnosis, the parents drove the sick girl to a hospital 50 miles away, where they were met with bad news. By that time, the E. coli had caused the girl’s kidneys to fail. She slipped into unconsciousness and was removed from life support a short time later.

Two opinions may be better than one

Many people are not fully aware of how much work goes into formulating a diagnosis. Not only must the physician complete a comprehensive medical evaluation on the patient, but they may have to order diagnostic tests as well. Since each patient is completely unique, the physician must ensure they have all of the information organized before finding the appropriate diagnosis. According to an article published in JAMA Internal Medicine, misdiagnoses may be the result of the following:

  • Issues with ordering and receiving diagnostic tests.
  • Errors interpreting diagnostic test results.
  • Patient’s failure to give a complete medical history.
  • Time constraints, limiting the amount of time a physician has to spend with each patient.

When a patient gets a second opinion, they may be able to solidify the original diagnosis, giving them confidence to take the next step in treating the condition. They may receive a completely different diagnosis or perspective, giving patients the option of choosing a different treatment plan.