No one really wants to think that their medical doctor would make a mistake with them, but there are some very common medical mistakes that place patients at risk and can lead to lifelong complications, and even death. With only a few states reporting medical errors, medical harm occurs at least 15 million times a year and results in approximately 200,000 deaths annually, according to the report, “Dead by Mistake.”
1. Your doctor will fail to perform the necessary tests to determine that an antibiotic will help you and not just create more imbalances within your body. In 2003, the FDA mandated that doctors must determine that a patient is suffering from a bacterial infection prior to prescribing an antibiotic. This means that an infection must be cultured first and susceptibility testing done to ensure that the correct antibiotic is being used. Almost all doctors think this takes too much time and therefore hand out antibiotics without following federally mandated protocols. Most infections don’t require antibiotics and will self-resolve within a week. Don’t be in a hurry.
2. Your doctor will schedule unnecessary x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, mammograms, blood tests, etc. Over 130 tests have been designated as unnecessary in many instances, by 25 medical societies. A new poll of doctors found that 3 out of 4 MDs believe their colleagues order unnecessary tests or perform unnecessary treatment. Unnecessary radiation procedures can lead to cancer later on in life.
3. Your doctor will diagnose you with the wrong condition. Diagnostic errors are the most common source of malpractice cases, patient harm, and costly payments. Diagnostic errors are the most likely to result in disability and death.
4. Your doctor will prescribe the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Over 1.3 million are injured annually by medication errors. Almost half of the medication errors that lead to death occur in people over the age of 60.
6. Your doctor won’t take the time to properly communicate with you. Poor doctor/patient communication is the 2nd most common medical error.
7. Your doctor won’t provide the care your situation requires if your insurance company won’t pay for it. This unfortunate and common occurrence demonstrates how medicine is a business, just like any other business. The perception of a medical doctor following some selfless, altruistic calling with the patients best interests at heart is outdated. It’s good to know exactly what your insurance will and won’t cover ahead of time. Insurance may not cover one doctor’s costs, but another doctor they can refer you to will be covered. Know before you go.
A patient needs to be prepared to advocate for their own healthcare, or by appointing a family member, relative, or friend to act on their behalf when it comes to medical care of any kind. As common as medical mistakes are, a second opinion may not be enough. You may want to get 3 or even 4 other opinions, and then carefully weigh your options. Don’t be intimidated into doing anything that makes you feel unsafe. Take charge of your own healthcare.
Dr. Jeff McCombs, DC