Differential diagnosis is a tool doctors can use to determine the cause of your illness. Doctors use differential diagnosis to rule out diseases until they find the cause of your ailment. If a physician uses differential diagnosis in treating a patient, it can help prevent medical malpractice. Using this tool can stop a doctor from misdiagnosing a patient with an illness they don’t have. It can also prevent a doctor from missing the correct diagnosis.
What is Differential Diagnosis
A detective gathers clues and eliminates suspects. Your doctor should use the differential diagnosis tool to collect symptoms and eliminate causes like a detective. Here’s how it works. The doctor will:
- Note your signs and symptoms
- Conducts tests
- Make a list of possible medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms
- Using your test results and their medical knowledge, the doctor should eliminate or rule out causes of your symptoms
A prudent doctor should put the most life-threatening causes at the top of the list. One by one, the doctor should narrow the list. The doctor should rule out the most life-threatening causes first. This process of elimination is differential diagnosis.
The Doctor Should Keep you Informed as they Eliminate Causes
Your doctor should tell you why they eliminate possible conditions. If your doctor tells you what cause was knocked off of the list and why you can help determine if they really should have been eliminated. For example, did the doctor miss one of your symptoms? Were your records mixed up with another patient’s. Being part of the process can help ensure that you are diagnosed correctly. A prudent doctor should keep you informed of the process.
Misdiagnosis happens more than we would like to believe. Some experts put the rate of misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis at 40%.
Missing or Misdiagnosing the Problem
If you aren’t getting better, or the doctor is scratching their head saying they just don’t know, you may want to ask the doctor to take another stab at the list. You may have been misdiagnosed, or the proper diagnosis may have been missed altogether.
Misdiagnosis – is where your doctor diagnoses you, but it’s wrong. For example, a doctor might diagnose heartburn, instead of a heart attack.
Missed diagnosis – doctors says you’re fine missing the diagnosis altogether, and you don’t get the treatment that you need. An example would be when a woman is told the small lump in her breast is benign, only to learn later that it is cancer that has gone untreated.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Familiar with Differential Diagnosis
Misdiagnosis and miss diagnosis can lead to dire consequences. Without the proper treatment, a patient’s condition can get worse. This medical malpractice can cause disability and even death. Often, the only way to learn of improper diagnosis is to stay on top of your care. If the medical malpractice causes death, request an autopsy.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice because the doctor neglected to use differential diagnosis, Chelsie King Garza can help. Ms. Garza is an experienced medical malpractice attorney who is familiar with differential diagnosis.