An article caught my attention this afternoon concerning wrong diagnoses by medical professionals. Now I am no medical professional. I was an EMT for 10 years, so if you ask me how to splint a broken femur, I could probably tell you how it was done 30 years ago. And so, indeed, I am no professional medical person but I probably fit the bill as a professional patient.
The article of note from NBCNewscom.com is titled: “Getting it Wrong: ‘Everyone Suffers an Incorrect or Late Diagnosis.'”
The National Academy of Medicine, whatever that may be, says pathologists and radiologists need to be more involved in a patient’s diagnosis. The Academy, as the former Institute of Medicine calls itself, says it can’t quantify the number of erroneous diagnoses but they know it is high. Because the Academy says so, damn it to hell! I suppose it’s like Justice Potter Stewart said in the 1964 Supreme Court decision on obscenity: Jacobellis v. Ohio, “I don’t know what obscenity is but I know it when I see it.”
Actually, that is not what Stewart said, or wrote, exactly.
“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that, Steward said”
In reality and back to medicine, the Academy did report that 5 percent of Americans receive the wrong diagnosis in outpatient care. And 10 percent of autopsies show patients who were misdiagnosed. On and on it seeps like a morphine drip.
The report goes on to say that the number of autopsies have dropped because insurance does not cover the, ahem, procedure. The study went onto say radiologists and pathologists should be more involved in clinical care. Okey dokey. So they really don’t fault the medical professionals, instead the report just, well … I’m not totally sure what the reports are implying. More autopsies? I don’t know about the rest of the world but in Texas, postmortem studies are supposedly performed on all patients who die an unwitnessed death. Likewise, I think, the same goes for those whose lives end violently. One only may guess where the supposition goes. No, not up there. I said supposition, not suppositories.
In reading this NBC article on the report, one may understand its point while others do not. For instance, the common mental picture one forms of pathologists are that they sit around looking for tiny cancers all day when they aren’t cracking open someone’s rib cage with a Skill saw. Likewise, one might imagine radiologists sitting around all day looking at X-rays or MRIs. No on both counts.
A good friend of mine is what is known as an interventional radiologist. He is a professor at a medical school and teaches his specialty to budding radiologists. But he likewise uses his skills to save lives. Says the Society for Interventional Radiology:
“(Interventional radiologists) offer the most in-depth knowledge of the least invasive treatments available coupled with diagnostic and clinical experience across all specialties. They use X-rays, MRI and other imaging to advance a catheter in the body, usually in an artery, to treat at the source of the disease internally.”
Here is a little known fact, to me at least. These highly-trained radiologists were the inventors of the angioplasty and catheter-delivered stents which were originally developed for treating peripheral arterial diseases. Pretty neat stuff it is. Had my friend not have been in the field of interventional radiology, I probably would have learned it off the street from some first-year med student selling professional journals with racy X-ray pictures. That’s a joke son!
I see a whole broader issue as far as wrong diagnoses leading to super-wrong outcomes. I go to the VA for my health care and bless their hearts, they love their electronic patient records. Some medical pros must sleep with the records they love them so much. Some of them do not read past the first page of the computerized charts. That’s for another day though, maybe.