Our healthcare system is made up of countless individuals who are caring, talented and hardworking. We are very critical of the U.S. medical establishment, but generally-speaking, any individual within that system is well-intentioned. However, like any gigantic system, it’s plagued by certain deficiencies and problems of scale, and these problems will often harm patients.
Like our podcast on the third largest cause of death in America mentions, mistakes are rampant, and when it comes to someone’s health, the consequences of a mistake are often dire.
In particular, studies point to these four issues as being prevalent throughout the medical community; each with real potential consequences for you and me.
Doctors frequently identify disorders incorrectly. In fact, every year, approximately 5 percent of patients in the United States receive an incorrect diagnosis.
It’s not just rare ailments they fail to name properly. At times, they don’t recognize cancers, pneumonia, and other common diseases and infections.
Misdiagnoses arise for various reasons. For one, doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals sometimes don’t communicate with each other effectively. Thus, physicians are occasionally relying on incomplete information when they’re evaluating patients.
Some doctors are too confident in their abilities and don’t take enough time to examine symptoms and weigh evidence. Medical biases and hasty assumptions play roles here as well. For instance, imagine that you have flu-like symptoms and you visit your doctor. If your physician has just seen several people with the flu, he or she might presume you have the flu, too. Unfortunately, you might be suffering from something else.
To prevent a misdiagnosis, ask your doctor for the results of every test you’ve undergone, and always explain everything that’s wrong in detail. If it seems like your doctor is rushing through your consult, make an appointment with another physician. It’s just not worth the risk!
2. Wrong Drugs
Drug-related mistakes are widespread. Indeed, since almost 33 percent of American adults take at least five drugs (don’t even get me started on this horrible statistic), the potential for error is significant. Even when patients are given the “correct” drug (again, don’t get me started), they might get the wrong dosage, or it might be administered at the wrong time.
Moreover, certain combinations of medications can be lethal.
Before your physician prescribes anything to you, offer a complete list of every medication and supplement you’re taking. Some people neglect to mention certain items, especially things they’re embarrassed about ― a hemorrhoid treatment, for example. Doing so can be fatal. Seriously.
3. Knowledge Gaps
Medicine advances rapidly. New studies and drugs appear all the time, and many doctors lack the time to keep up with them. But, by asking your physician if your care is based on the most recent information, you might prompt him or her to do some catching up. You may be worried about pressing your smart, well-educated doctor on his or her expertise, but any serious physician can appreciate your desire to have the latest knowledge applied to your case. There is nothing wrong with expecting fresh knowledge to be available to you during your treatment.
Admittedly, some physicians never learned enough about certain disorders, or they’ve forgotten what they studied. For instance, in July 2015, Kids with Food Allergies, a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, published a survey in which 408 doctors took multiple-choice tests about asthma. More than 92 percent of them got most of the questions wrong.
It may be that more serious topics generate more serious experts, but how likely is it that when most doctors get most facts wrong about asthma that their heart health knowledge is perfect? Slim to none?
4. Clinician Burnout
These days, many doctors and medical facilities are swamped with patients. And, when clinicians feel stressed and overworked, it can lead to depression. In the U.S., the suicide rate among doctors is about twice the suicide rate of the whole country.
Anyone who has ever watched one of the popular hospital procedurals can appreciate the grueling pace, unbelievable hours, and difficult emotional conditions many doctors can face in emergency rooms and even in their own general family practices.
There isn’t much you can do to improve this situation for doctors. There are many reasons why medical treatments costs so much, but we pay doctors commensurate with their sacrifice and difficulties. It’s no mystery it can be a hard job.
Remember that you might cheer up your doctor just by being polite. This can often be difficult when you aren’t feeling well. But try not to complain about matters like the price of medications or how long you’ve had to wait to get into their practice. These are usually issues he or she can’t control and can be demoralizing to field from patients.
The medical community will always make some errors. It’s human nature. Still, if you give your doctors as much relevant information as you can, get second opinions when necessary, stay informed about the drugs they insist you take and treat medical professionals with respect, you may avert a harmful or even deadly mistake.
Better yet, do what you can to avoid any need of the medical establishment for as long as you can. As we’ve seen in our own clinic, more often than not the maladies that plague us as we age and more and more in younger people as well, are maladies of malnourished populations.
Remember what Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Whether you are seeing someone for heart, lungs, digestion, skin, sleep, whatever else, the problems usually begin with gut dysbiosis. We have a terrific podcast on this very topic. What we are saying in the end, is nourish yourself properly and avoid the medical industry whenever possible.