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Doctor misdiagnoses may be more common than expected

Residents of North Carolina depend on their doctors to make correct diagnoses when they have an ailment and seek treatment. However, a new study shows that doctors make an incorrect diagnosis 10 to 15 percent of the time.

Interestingly, many doctors are missing common health problems. The study of 68 cases in March 2013 included cases of pneumonia, urinary tract infections, congestive heart failure, acute renal failure and cancer. Those diseases are all seen by doctors on a regular basis.

Each patient can take some steps when he or she visits the doctor that will help assure a correct diagnosis. An early-morning appointment may be helpful because a doctor may not be rushing through a visit to compensate for a late-afternoon backlog. Also, patients should ask their doctor specific questions and fully communicate all the details of the symptoms that they have been experiencing. When a patient does not feel comfortable with a diagnosis or if he or she is not improving when following the treatment prescribed by a doctor, getting a second opinion may be in that patient's best interest and should be done without hesitation.

A doctor error may result in unnecessary tests, expenses, pain and an extended recovery period for the patient. If individuals are injured by a mistake made while they are receiving medical treatment, an attorney may be able to help them receive compensation. That attorney may be able to help victims determine who is liable for damages and pursue a malpractice case against a doctor or hospital based on evidence such as a hospital's shift records or a history of malpractice claims against the institution.

Source: Consumer Reports, "Mistakes even good doctors make", October 31, 2013

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