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Part 2: Diagnostic errors in primary care medicine

In our last post we focused on diagnostic errors among primary care physicians. Now that it is established that this is something that does happen, and can be serious or deadly for a patient, now it is time to focus on what is causing this medical error and focus on solutions.

Overall, the study points to the fact that one of the No. 1 issues is that physicians simply do not have as much time with their patients. Not having enough time changes how patients and doctors communicate with one another, how exams are conducted and how the information regarding medical histories is processed.

When it comes to trying to prevent diagnostic errors, physicians and patients can both play a role.

For physicians, seeking out information related to patient outcomes can go a long ways. This means looking into what happened to a patient after he or she left the office. This gives more awareness to any potential issues or patterns in diagnostic errors.

Additionally, physicians need to prioritize when talking with patients. Cancer, strokes and heart attacks are known to be the most dangerous and damaging if left undiagnosed. This is why physicians should always make sure to give attention to the complaints often related to these medical conditions.

Lastly, in terms of what physicians and patients can do together, it is important for each to have an active role in diagnosing. This means the patient should be encouraged to fully cooperate and disclose any and all information. If after a visit, a physician is still not sure about the diagnosis, insist on having a patient schedule another follow-up visit and take advantage of diagnosis checklists and other technologies available to doctors.

The hope is that through better communication and a better understanding of the issues effecting doctors, diagnostic errors will become less frequent.


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