Patient Feedback May Save Lives

5% of American adults who receive outpatient care every year are victims of erroneous diagnoses. “We want to indicate to the American public that this is a significant problem that will probably touch the lives of all of us at some point,” says Michael Cohen, professor of pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C. has an alarming new report entitled  “Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare.”  In that report are claims that most Americans will have at least one delayed or wrong medical diagnosis at some point during their lifetime. These misdiagnoses are the direct cause of 17% of all adverse events in our hospitals with 10% resulting in death of the patient.

The report, the fourth such installment in a series by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), intends for these findings to result in changes in the way our healthcare system works.  “Making a diagnosis is a complex problem,” Michael Cohen, a committee member of the IOM tells us. “To improve the whole process we need to be better integrated in terms of how we address patients’ problems. Teamwork across disciplines is really critical.” This committee’s report stresses the importance of the patient becoming their own biggest advocate for the care they are receiving.  What I find is that such advocacy can be in short supply for my elderly clients, especially those whose children are out of town.

The major impediment to getting a correct diagnosis will likely not surprise you.  Most hospitals and healthcare facilities including your own doctor’s office have processes in place that are created, not to support accurate an diagnosis, rather “instead [are] aimed at meeting billing and legal requirements,” the report reads.  Wow, that pretty much says it all.

“There’s a notion that some smart physician sits in his office, talks to his patient, then does a few lab tests and makes a brilliant diagnosis. It’s really not how it works,” Cohen says. “Patients need to be actively involved in different aspects of their interaction with the healthcare system, and they need to speak up and question their providers,” he says. “It’s critical.”

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: elder law planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.  However, proper estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project.  Why not call us for a complimentary consultation at 757-259-0707.

Reference: Forbes.com (September 22, 2015) Report: Doctors Are Screwing Up Diagnoses — And Patients Should Speak Out”

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