Better Communication Could Reduce Misdiagnosis

When people in Connecticut enter hospitals as patients, they face a chance of getting the wrong diagnosis. One study estimated a rate of misdiagnosis at 1 in 20 hospital patients. This translates into about 12 million people per year who could be missing out on proper treatment.

Researchers have identified breakdowns in communication between a physician and the patient and among health care workers as a leading factor in misdiagnosis. Sometimes, physicians do not have adequate listening and interpersonal skills to gather information from a patient. One proposed solution would be for hospital administrators to offer programs that train physicians in effective communication. Patients could also support diagnostic efforts by staying informed about their medical history and providing information to their caregivers.

Another barrier to communication occurs among health care staff. Physicians, nurses and other medical technicians might feel reluctant to express a concern or point out someone’s error. Hospital administrators could reduce reticence among caregivers by promoting a work culture that invites feedback from all staff members.

When a person suffers because of a physician’s failure to diagnose a serious condition like cancer, legal action might present a viable course for pursuing damages. The services of an attorney who works with medical cases could allow the person to decide if a medical malpractice lawsuit could be filed with a court. An attorney could ask an independent medical expert to review the medical records. If the physician in question did not meet the accepted standards for providing care, then negligence might be claimed. The attorney might approach the physician or health care company with the evidence and request a settlement. If out-of-court negotiations do not produce results, then the attorney could present the information to a judge and jury.