If you were to guess how many people receive a misdiagnosis every year in the US, what would be your estimate? 100,000? 500,000? 1 million? According to the National Academy of Medicine, about 12 million people per year receive a misdiagnosis. Here’s another startling fact: most of those 12 million people are women.
Consider these sobering statistics:
We recently shared how common medical errors are in the US. When a woman receives a wrong diagnosis – or no diagnosis – the impact can be devastating. She can miss a critical window of treatment or suffer side effects from unneeded medications.
A quick Google search yielded no shortage of harrowing stories like these:
Ask your female friends and family members if they’ve ever felt that their doctor hasn’t listened to them. No doubt, you’ll end up hearing many troubling experiences.
It’s clear that there are biases when it comes to receiving fair health care. So, what can women do when facing a medical condition? What steps can they take to prevent receiving a misdiagnosis?
Here are four simple steps.
Ideally, find a good general practitioner before you need one. One way to find a quality doctor is by asking your female friends and family members who they’d recommend. Take time to read reviews about doctors. Call the office and ask questions (“how accessible is this doctor?” “how long has she been in practice?”).
Another tip: consider going to a female practitioner. Results show that female doctors tend to spend more time with their patients. Another study conducted by Harvard revealed that patients who see female doctors tend to live longer.
At your appointment, you’ll likely only get 15 minutes of your doctor’s time. This is time you are paying good money for, so come prepared to maximize those 15 minutes.
Here are some simple things you can do:
Do not feel silly to bring your questions and a notepad. It shows you care about your health, and value your doctor’s time and feedback.
For key appointments, bring a friend or family member if you’re able. On the way to the doctor’s office, discuss your goals for the appointment and the questions you’re planning to ask. Give your friend or family member permission to step in and gently help redirect or clarify, if need be.
Another option to consider is hiring a patient advocate. A patient advocate is an independent third-party who can help you navigate the health system. Think of them as a go-between the patient and doctors.
This could be useful if:
The drawback to hiring a patient advocate is that it may be expensive, and not covered by your insurance. The upside is that an advocate may find you answers that improve your quality of life and potentially, save you money. If you’re interested to learn more, you can find an advocate near you.
Women are often socially conditioned to be polite and deferential. Unfortunately, there are many situations, such as health care, where this could backfire.
Here are some ways you can be assertive when it comes to dealing with doctors: