YOU COULD BE ONE OF 12M PEOPLE BEING MISDIAGNOSED EACH YEAR
How Do You Know You Are Seeing A Physician Who Will Get It Right?
Twelve million is the staggering number of people in the United States each year who seek outpatient medical care and are misdiagnosed, according to BMJ Quality & Safety and “CBS News.” This is a profound and unacceptable number, and if you are one of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies’ 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain that will not go away, you might be among those 12 million misdiagnosed. You owe yourself a second opinion. The pain is not your fault, and it is not in your mind. The proof of your pain should be in the pudding, and you deserve the right to know what kind of pudding you are being served.
So what can you do to improve your chances of seeing a doctor who will get it right?
The first step is to know the experience and credentialing of the physician you are seeing and to feel as if you are being heard, according to Dr. Stephen W. Wheat, a Northwest Louisiana physician specializing in electrodiagnostic testing to find the cause of nerve and muscle pain.
Dr. Wheat emphasizes that it is important that a physician allows you to tell your whole story. If your doctor seems to be in a rush and interrupts frequently, you are at greater risk of being misdiagnosed. As a patient, you are giving clues that can help determine the real cause of your pain, and it is important that the doctor have this information to help determine a correct diagnosis.
The second step might be to make sure that your physician is one who is trained to use the latest in evidencebased, fact-based diagnostic tools. In Dr. Wheat’s field of nerve and muscle diagnostic testing, electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS), along with ultrasound, are three of the most effective tools he uses for determining the exact cause of neuro-musculoskeletal pain.
Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles, and Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS) measure how well the nerves send electrical signals. These tests help diagnose the cause of lower back pain; neck pain; pain, tingling and numbness of the hand and fingers such as experienced with carpal tunnel syndrome; numbness, tingling, pricking sensations or muscle weakness such as experienced with polyneuropathy or diabetic neuropathy or pain related to unsuccessful neck or low back surgery.
Dr. Wheat has been using ultrasound, EMG and NCS to diagnose chronic pain issues since 1991. He has performed more than 10,000 neuromuscular and skeletal ultrasound procedures and more than 14,000 electrodiagnostic procedures (EMG and NCS) to diagnose chronic pain issues in his 25 years as a physician. Dr. Wheat is dedicated to helping patients receive an accurate diagnosis so that they can quickly return to an active, pain-free life.
What else can you do to increase the chances that your physician is giving you the right answers? Ask questions. Once your doctor gives you a possible diagnosis, ask if there is anything in your medical history that doesn’t fit with what he or she thinks you have and ask if there is anything else it could possibly be.
Approximately three to five percent of the time, something goes wrong with a lab test. If your results are shocking, verify them. You can ask that a second test be run, if it seems extraordinary.
It is important to allow for the possibility for uncertainty. If a doctor acknowledges that he or she just doesn’t know, and then refers you to a specialist who probably will be able to help, you’re with the right physician. You don’t want someone who simply placates you with a diagnosis and then insists he or she is right.
And finally, don’t discount patient-physician chemistry. You should feel comfortable talking to your doctor, and your doctor should be interested in what you have to say.
Your physician is probably right approximately 80 percent of the time, which is not bad, but might not keep you out of the 12 million misdiagnosed statistic. Increase your chances that the medical expert you choose will get it right by choosing someone who has the experience, expertise and who listens to you. If you follow these simple steps, it’s no hidden secret to getting the right diagnosis.
Dr. Stephen W. Wheat is triple board-certified in electrodiagnostic medicine, physical medicine & rehabilitation, and internal medicine with more than 25 years experience. He specializes in nerve and muscle diagnostic testing, practices medicine in Natchitoches and Shreveport, and teaches at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. Dr. Wheat has served as a member of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, Professional Practice and Professional Program Committees of the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine.