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Thomas Eric Duncan walked into a Dallas emergency room feeling deathly ill.
Doctors diagnosed him with sinusitis and sent him home.
He returned two days later, sicker, and eventually died.
Duncan had ebola.
This is possibly the most well-known diagnostic error in recent memory. But a new report by the Institute of Medicine says it’s unfortunately far from the only mistake doctors make.
“Most people will experience at least one wrong or delayed diagnosis at some point in their lives, a blind spot in modern medicine that can have devastating consequences,” the report states.
One woman interviewed by the Institute for the report said she went to the emergency room with heart attack symptoms and was misdiagnosed with acid reflux.
The doctor gave her grief for questioning his expertise.
She returned days later with severe heart damage.
Unfortunately for her, hospitals and doctors haven’t paid enough attention to the problem since the IOM first reported back in 1999 that as many as 98,000 people a year die of preventable medical mistakes in hospitals. 
However, despite their failures, there are a few things you can do for yourself to minimize the risk of wrong diagnosis.
- Don’t let your doctor visit become rushed.
- Take the time to talk to your doctor and make sure you are communicating openly.
- Ask questions, and get all your health records immediately so you’ll know what to ask.
- Another suggestion is that if your doctor whom you like and have trusted for years fails to diagnose you, and a second or third doctor finally gets it right, have your original doctor notified. It shouldn’t be an embarrassment for them to call and say, “It turned out this patient had X and not Y.”
- On the technology front, one thing that might help soon is VisualDx, a system that matches symptoms to a visual library of possible diagnoses. Inquire if your doctor uses it yet.
 Neergaard L. “Study: Diagnosis wrong too often, urgent improvement needed.” Medical XPress. http://medicalxpress.com. September 22, 2015. Retrieved Oct 1, 2015.