The danger of misdiagnosis in the healthcare industry is alarming. A misdiagnosis can occur when a physician incorrectly diagnoses a patient’s injury or condition, delays diagnosis or misses a diagnosis entirely. Misdiagnosis means needless suffering for patients and families, and sometimes, even lost lives.

Annually, 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed. Furthermore, misdiagnosis is the third leading cause of death, causing at least 250,000 deaths every year. Some errors might be detected and cause no harm to the patient, but this is not always the case.

Action is essential

After a potential misdiagnosis, consider taking the following steps to advocate for yourself and be proactive:

Schedule a second appointment. Doctors often assume if they do not hear back from patients that things are normal. If you feel something is wrong with your diagnosis, be proactive and schedule a follow-up appointment. Bring a list of concerns and questions you want to address – the more prepared you are, the more productive your discussion will be. Do not hesitate to ask questions. Effective communication with your doctor is central to understanding your diagnosis

Get a second opinion. Doctors are human, and sometimes they make mistakes. If you feel your diagnosis is inaccurate or you are uncomfortable with it, you have the right to get a second opinion. A second opinion might help you better understand your diagnosis and treatment options. Getting a second opinion can help you feel more in control of your health and ensure you are making the best medical decisions.

Educate yourself, but do so wisely. It is not always easy to verify whether healthcare information available online is accurate or trustworthy. Should you research, gather information from credible scholarly or medical websites. While research can help you understand symptoms and diagnosis, avoid the temptation to self-diagnose. Instead, use your research to inform yourself better when discussing your situation with a physician.

Listen to your instincts – you know your body better than anyone. Facing a surprising or negative medical diagnosis can be scary and intimidating. However, with the right tools and frame of mind, you can take charge of your medical care and feel more empowered.