When you go to the doctor, you want to be able to put all your trust in him or her to properly diagnose and treat any medical conditions you may have. While most doctors are extremely competent and can help you become well, there are some situations where individual doctors make the wrong decision. This can impact your health for some time to come.
Are there any steps you can take as a patient to reduce the risks of suffering from medical negligence, or malpractice?
1. State your most important symptoms or concerns first.
According to a recent article in the Denver Post, doctors listen for an average of 10 seconds as patients describe symptoms. That means you should immediately discuss what's most important, rather than starting with more minor complaints.
2. Make sure your doctor is listening.
Doctors are busy people and can often seem distracted or unavailable. Sometimes a simple, "Doctor, are you OK? Are you listening to me?" query can help your medical professional refocus on your story and explanation. Try to use a non-accusatory tone of voice for best results.
3. Write down your questions.
You should prepare for a doctor visit like you might for a job interview. Make sure you have prioritized what you want to talk about and put your main concerns in writing so you do not forget to bring them up. As long as you've got your paper and pen, or mobile device that allows you to take notes, you should jot down what your practitioner says in response to your questions.
4. Be persistent.
If you have a particularly troublesome issue or symptom, don't back down from discussing it. Sometimes doctors will seem to minimize a particular symptom or imply it is all in your head - but don't back down. It's OK to be assertive when it comes to your medical needs. If your doctor does not offer treatment or testing for that symptom, seek a second opinion.
5. Follow through.
Did your doctor suggest a particular test or recommend waiting for a period of time, then revisiting the issue? Make sure you take responsibility for noting this and making it happen. A 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 50 percent of doctors don't fully follow up on problems highlighted during patient care. While that's often due to the doctor's busy schedule, you need to take this control as a patient to ensure your issues are properly treated.
In spite of your best efforts, if you have been improperly diagnosed or treated and it's led to an ongoing health issue or made things worse, you may be able to seek legal recourse.
If you do decide to engage the services of a lawyer and pursue your legal options against a medical practitioner, remember that the doctor must have made a decision that his or her peers would be unlikely to make in a similar circumstance. You are unlikely to recover any financial damages simply because you did not like, or did not heal after, a particular course of treatment. Talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, like Attorney Carole A Gardiner, for a better idea of your options.