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Collaborating With Your Physician Will Prevent Misdiagnosis

In the state of Massachusetts, misdiagnosis can be grounds for a medical malpractice suit if the failure to diagnose violated standards of reasonable care under the circumstances and resulted in demonstrable injury to the patient. Misdiagnosis is not a Massachusetts issue alone, of course. A new report notes that 39 percent of all malpractice payments at the national level are compensations for incorrect, delayed or absent diagnoses.

In an effort to lessen the incidence of misdiagnoses, the medical community is looking for ways in which physicians and patients can collaborate here. Patients are sometimes unclear when it comes to communicating the full range of symptoms that prompted them to make an appointment with their physician. They may leave out salient portions of their medical history or their family history, either because they've forgotten this history themselves, or because they believe it is irrelevant.

One common cause of misdiagnosis is fragmented medical care. Many individuals see more than one physician for different health complaints, and frequently, these physicians don't communicate with one another. It is always wisest to share diagnoses, test results and information about medication prescriptions among all your doctors, and have them contact one another should any treatment questions arise.

Other strategies for minimizing misdiagnosis include becoming more proactive with your physicians. Find out what other illnesses or injuries could match your symptoms, and ask your doctor specifically why he or she has ruled those out. Take the initiative to track down the results of any lab tests yourself, and call the physician who ordered the tests personally if you have any questions about their results.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts subscribes to the legal policy of contributory negligence in medical malpractice lawsuits. That means if a claimant's own lapses demonstrably contributed to the injury he or she sustained at the hands of a negligent practitioner, recovery is proportionally reduced according of the degree of their lapse. Your due diligence with your physicians not only protects you against misdiagnosis, it can also protect you in the unfortunate event that misdiagnosis occurs and you are forced to take legal action to protect your own interests.

Source: The Plain Dealer, "Tips for helping your doctors avoid misdiagnosis: Drs. Oz and Roizen", June 04, 2013

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