Missed diagnosis is a common occurrence with 1 in 20 American adult patients misdiagnosed in outpatient clinics each year. Unfortunately, the consequences of a wrong diagnosis can become deadly causing complications, injuries, or deaths. The good news is you can take control of your health and reduce the chances of a misdiagnosis by actively engaging with the care team.

The Patient as Part of the Diagnostic Team

Diagnostic mistakes are common in the United States inflicting injuries or death. Although victims of a misdiagnosis can get compensation for their suffering and loss, malpractice lawyers must prove that healthcare providers were negligent and did not do their jobs properly. Considering that the prevalence of medical misdiagnosis is high, reducing errors must become a priority.

According to an opinion piece that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, improving health care diagnosis needs the collaboration of patients and all health care stakeholders. Dr. Singh of Baylor College Medicine says that the right diagnosis is at the heart of the right treatment. Therefore, it is crucial that diagnostic errors are detected and understood. He recommends systems and process changes that must be established in physician’s office, clinics, and hospitals that could improve patient care. Specifically, he recommends strengthening teamwork between patients and practicing clinicians to engage in finding solutions to reduce medical errors.

Becoming Part of the Healthcare Team

One of the ways to include patients in the team is to gather data and use inputs of those being treated. The diagnostic team can conduct patient and family interviews, experience surveys, and even create focus groups. Doing so will identify the needs of both parties, ascertain care gaps, and pinpoint opportunities for improvements.

Patients can also keep a concise documentation of their illness or medical history writing down symptoms and medications that were prescribed by their healthcare providers. Raising questions and asking expectations also help in ensuring that the right medical diagnosis is offered. If in doubt about test results, the procedure can be repeated to generate a second opinion. It’s also beneficial for clinicians to empower patients by ensuring that they are knowledgeable about their own care/treatment and are equipped with the right tools to monitor their health.

Medical errors often have devastating results such as injuries, complications, or loss of life. Engaging the assistance of the patient and their family to become part of the diagnostic and healthcare team is a strategy that can reduce misdiagnosis and medical malpractice.