Going to the Emergency Room? Be Careful.

Emergency rooms are often crowded and chaotic.  With state budget cuts to health care programs, more and more people will be seeking care at emergency rooms and they will likely be sicker than they have been in the past.  Even without more crowding, emergency rooms are one of the hospital departments most responsible for malpractice claims.  Most of these claims arise out of problems associated with a failure to correctly diagnose the patient.  Heart attacks are the most frequently missed diagnosis. 

Studies which have looked at the reasons for these errors in diagnosis have identified a number of different causes, some of which you may be able to prevent.  Inadequate medical history is often a cause of misdiagnosis.  The doctor has never seen you before and does not have any of your old records.  You need to be sure to give the doctor and the nurses every bit of medical information you can.  This means not just your past medical history but also information about your current symptoms, when they began, how long they have lasted, whether you or a family member ever had this type of problem in the past, etc.  Don’t be intimidated into being quiet. 

Information lost at shift change, poor communication between the nurses and the doctor and missing lab values have also been flagged as causes of misdiagnosis.

As with all medical treatment, be proactive and ask questions.  Don’t just blindly accept what you are told, especially if it does not seem right to you.

Posted in Doctors, Hospitals, Nurses |