Mistaken diagnoses are possible [Archives:2007/1116/Health]

December 31 2007

Dr. Abdulqawi Al-Shamairi secretary-general of the Modern Private Hospital admits that it's possible for physicians to make mistakes during diagnosis, the key reason being that patients aren't given enough time for treatment. Diagnostic devices aren't as important as physicians themselves because if they allow sufficient time to diagnose patients, the process is more accurate.

He goes on to note that the availability of necessary diagnostic devices is a secondary factor. If these are unavailable, mistakes will be made during diagnosis; however, most of these devices are in the hands of Yemeni health facilities

Regardless, Yemeni patients are always in a hurry, wanting everything done as quickly as possible in order to end their suffering; yet, if done correctly, some diagnostic measures last for days.

Al-Shamairi asserts that physicians making mistakes concerning simple or straightforward diseases doesn't cause major problems ;however, serious or critical diseases must be diagnosed before treatment, as medication isn't to be administered simply by guesswork.

Additionally, he notes the difficulty of diagnosing often more than 50 patients amid the continual congestion at hospitals and clinics, as doctors can't examine this many patients within their limited four-hour time span. Nevertheless, examinations are performed this way, leading to mistaken diagnoses due to the pressure.

Further complicating matters are those poor Yemeni patients experiencing financial difficulties, which is a daily occurrence. Patients are unable to pay the cost of diagnosis, as the often tedious process is quite costly. As a result, doctors sometimes resort to making easy diagnoses that either are incomplete or purely wrong, Al-Shaimari admits.

Due to a lack within their culture, Yemeni patients sometimes don't return to their same physician, instead seeing different doctors. Regardless, doctors should explain everything clearly and completely to patients regarding their case. This is especially important concerning initiating medication and its appropriate response time.

Al-Shaimari maintains that the more time physicians allow for the diagnostic process and for patients to follow up their case, the more the process will be carried out correctly.

If the following four conditions are observed, patient diagnosis will be correct and accurate: doctors must be sufficiently qualified, patients should be granted enough time by their physician for their examination , they should be ready to follow up their cases and diagnostic devices should be available and operational.

Additionally, it's vital to take care of laboratories because most of the time, mistakes are made there due to the fact that many chemicals being used in some labs are expired. Also occurring at private hospitals outside of Sana'a, its cause is attributed to lack of international monitoring. Such chemicals may turn patients' cases upside down.

Emergency physician Maher Al-Shami proposes that there are several reasons for differing diagnoses between doctors, potentially involving the physician, the patient or the disease itself. For example, the disease may be rarely diagnosed or unknown; such diseases require numerous tests following diagnosis.

While doctors still may make mistakes concerning rare diseases that are difficult to diagnose, they shouldn't make mistakes regarding common diseases.

Additionally, Al-Shami stresses the importance of patients' psychological state, which plays a vital role in helping them accept medication, so he looks for psychological ease in his patients. He also believes that it's important that a physician treat his or her patients well. For example, how a disease is presented to a patient helps him or her to accept the required medication.

Neurological and spinal consultant Dr. Abdulrahman H. Al-Malki asserts that many cases are mistakenly diagnosed by fellow medical colleagues, with most such cases being handled by non-specialized physicians, such as those practicing general medicine or recently graduated physicians with limited experience.

However, he points out that there is some cooperation between these physicians and the others, with such relations and procedures coming under professional etiquette.

Source: Fourth National Conference for Population Policy