What often brings us to a psychiatrist for mental illness assessment are symptoms that are hindering our ability to perform daily tasks in a comfortable and efficient way. Whether we are experiencing feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, extreme euphoria, hallucinations, or anything else – we want to finally understand what we are experiencing so that we can manage everything better. When diagnosed correctly, this can mean a world of difference; we may now understand why we do certain things, why others have said or done certain things around us, and we may feel a little clearer on our experiences and what control we have over them. Although diagnosis can be enlightening, unfortunately misdiagnosis is very common.
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that up to 98,000 people die each year due to hospital mistakes – and it doesn’t stop there. In 2014, CBS News explained a study published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety that found that nearly 12 million Americans who seek outpatient medical care are misdiagnosed. This number equivalates to approximately 1 in 20 adult patients; an elevated risk for harm. How are patients getting misdiagnosed so often?
One key concern is the limited amount of time that doctors have in the office with a patient. The Physicians Foundation found that of 13,575 doctors surveyed, 39.8% of them see 11 to 20 patients a day, and 26.8% see 21 to 30 patients a day. With so many people needing help and little time, many doctors are feeling rushed to diagnose and prescribe medication, but this is costing some individuals their livelihood. With changes to the medical practice environment, many doctors are limiting the number of patients they see and working less just to manage their stress. “Physicians are working fewer hours, seeing fewer patients and limiting access to their practices in light of the significant changes,” stated Lou Goodman, president of the Physicians Foundation as stated on the Washington Post.
Misdiagnosis can lead to overmedication, unwanted symptoms, disassociation and even more physical problems as too many different medications can shut down certain parts of the body. Several sources also warn that misdiagnosis can lead to death; CNN states that doctors from John Hopkins are suggesting that medical errors may even kill more people than things like lower respiratory disease. What can you do? Always provide accurate information to your doctor, and don’t get medication for something that isn’t causing you significant distress. Tell your doctor immediately if you are experiencing symptoms that are of concern.
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