A recent research article estimated that about 12 million adults in the U.S. are misdiagnosed every year while receiving outpatient medical care, but there are ways patients can improve their own care.
Lindsay: How many of these errors were thought to be serious?
Dr. Arnold: About half of the errors were estimated to be potentially harmful.
Lindsay: Let’s talk about what kinds of things patients should do before going to the doctor’s office?
Dr. Arnold: I think it is a great idea for people, especially the elderly, to keep a running list of their medical problems and surgeries they have had. When you are sick or in pain, it’s sometimes harder to remember things, such as a surgery you had 30 years ago. It is helpful to have a list already made that you can bring with you to your healthcare provider. If you see specialists for health care, try to keep a list of their names and phone numbers.
Lindsay: How about medications?
Dr. Arnold: Keep a list of your medications and their doses as well. It’s important to include all medications, even vitamins or supplements as well as over the counter medications. For example, if you are taking daily over the counter medicine for pain, it’s important to mention that, even though it’s not a prescription medication. Keep a list of medication allergies and what happens when you take that medication.
Lindsay: What about potentially uncomfortable topics with your doctor?
Dr. Arnold: No one likes to discuss personal or embarrassing topics, but it can be important information for your care. Touchy subjects, like how many beers you have a night or whether you use illegal drugs are subjects that you need to be honest about. Your doctor isn’t asking to be nosy. He or she cares about your health.
Lindsay: What should patients do if they haven’t heard the results from tests?
Dr. Arnold: If your healthcare provider has ordered tests, like blood work or x-rays, someone from the office should let you know the results, for example, by mail or phone call. If you haven’t heard the results in a reasonable amount of time, you should call to find out the results.
Lindsay: We have time for one more quick suggestion for patients.
Dr. Arnold: We all know that time with health care providers is more rushed than ever, but you should always ask if you have questions. If you don’t understand, ask again.