Monday, October 18, 2010

Medical Mistakes: Foul-Ups That Should Never Happen


"Never events" are mistakes the National Quality Forum says should never happen during a patient's hospital stay. The NQF calls these events "serious, largely preventable, and of concern to both the public and health-care providers."

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Roughly 1 in 5 diagnoses is wrong.  Not because the doctor lacks the skill to figure out the right one but because he stopped listening after 18 seconds.  Patient says "Doctor, I'm so tired all the time", forget it, don't bother telling him about all your neuro-immune symptoms, you've already been diagnosed with depression and nothing you say from here on out will change his mind.
I walked in and handed him an expert diagnosis on a silver platter.  The virologist who diagnosed me called me a "textbook case".  That didn't matter; I was a bespectacled middle-aged divorcee, and therefore, no questions necessary, I was automatically depressed.  Had the doctor listened to me, instead of diagnosing by stereotype, years of misery could have been avoided.
Changing a correct diagnosis to an incorrect one should be a Never Event.  Nonetheless, it happens.  And then the patient is blamed for not improving when given the wrong drug for the wrong disease.
Don't let it happen to you.  Periodically, request to review your medical records.  HIPAA says you have the right to request a change of inaccurate information.  The problem is, the decision on whether to change it is up to the doctor/hospital, and they may not want to admit that they put inaccurate information in your file, so they may steadfastly insist that this is what you told them.
Therefore, protect yourself -- put your medical history in writing.  I keep a copy on my computer so all I have to do is type "Dear Dr. Smith" on top and print it out.  Voila, written proof that I communicated that my diagnosis is virologist-diagnosed CFS, not post-divorce depression, and that the CFS diagnosis was confirmed by a rheumatologist just a couple months before I saw the doctor who swears I don't actually have CFS.  Written proof that the doctor was advised (whether he read it is a different matter) that there are stairs between me and the sidewalk, meaning he should've taken that into consideration before insisting that I had to walk outdoors, not indoors, for exercise. 
You should've seen my doctors scramble to cover their butts when I pinned them down on false statements in the medical records that were contradicted by what I'd submitted to them in writing.  :)  They still were not inclined to change the records, but at least the lawyer reading my HIPAA submission saw the proof that the doctors at that institution repeatedly committed the criminal act of placing false and inaccurate information in medical records, and hopefully gave them a lecture on "go to jail, go directly to jail" if they do it again.


mlesquire said...

By your reasoning (that being MDs are capable of mis-diagnosing) who is to say, other than yourself, that the MD who gave you the CFS diagnosis was correct? And I am unsure of your state but I have to question your account of physicans changing a patient's record to "cover their butts". If it were proven true they would not be able to continue using their license to practice medicine as that license would be yanked.

CFS Facts said...

The CFS diagnosis has been confirmed and re-confirmed, and fits the symptoms better than any of the other wrong diagnoses (e.g., depression does not begin with a 105 fever, nor does the list of related symptoms include rashes and swollen glands).

The doctors didn't CHANGE the medical record, they falsified it from the first. And while it's true that their licenses would be yanked "if proven true", no one seems inclined to investigate. The State Medical Board claims they only have money to investigate cases resulting in loss of life or limb, and I'm still alive and in possession of both hands and both feet.

They flatly refused to correct the records when I made a HIPAA request. Here's the proof that I did not quit work the day I was diagnosed, you can't argue with that. And, no, they weren't going to argue with the proof, just claim that they wrote down what they understood me to say.

And I quote, "Nothing you said made sense." Blame the patient so you don't have to admit that you were falsifying records.