Wednesday
   November 21, 2018

An Apple A Day
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"An Apple A Day"


Orcas Family
Health Center

A Washington State and IRS 501 (c) (3) charitable non -profit corporation


"Apple A Day Articles"

ADULT “CHECK-UPS”

AN APPLE A DAY...FOR WOMEN

COMMUNICATION BASICS

FDA LICENSES NEWVACCINE FOR PREVENTION OF CERVICAL CANCER

GETTING THERE FROM HERE

LEMONS AND LYMES

NO MERCY FROM MRSA

ONE FLU OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST

PROSTATE CANCER SCREENING

TO ERR IS HUMAN

TO ERR IS HUMAN

“That doctor sure screwed up, the patient almost died." How many times have you heard that?

Usually this column covers aspects of medical diseases and prevention. Today we tackle the difficult and taboo topic of physician “mistakes.” Medical horror stories caused by “incompetent” doctors is an extremely popular topic of conversation at cocktail parties, in the grocery store, or after church. Nationwide—and Orcas is no exception—there seems to be an almost vicarious pleasure in “doctor bashing.” It is vital to remember, however, that we doctors are also human beings subject to the same limitations, uncertainties, and—yes—errors in judgment as any other person. Clearly when mistakes do occur they are not intentional, but more a function of the complexity of the human body and the predictable difficulty our profession has in always accurately assessing a patient complaint.

Obviously there are situations where a patient presenting with a symptom does not result in the correct diagnosis 100% of the time. As treating doctors we thought something else was happening, may not have asked all the right questions or perhaps did not perform all the possible tests in our evaluation. Practicing medicine on Orcas is challenging in that the abundance of diagnostic tests readily available to doctors on the mainland are not available here. A patient may need to spend an entire day riding the ferry to get a test done. We islanders must weigh the value of the test versus the inconvenience to the patient.

Whatever the situation, appropriate follow up is critical to minimize any adverse outcomes. As

diseases evolve, symptoms may change. Because of this, what originally seemed like the proper diagnosis may also change. We all know hindsight is 20/20; we can recall countless times when the passage of time made it easier to make the correct diagnosis that was less clear on initial presentation.

To further complicate matters, there are times a patient will see another doctor after the disease has progressed thereby making the diagnosis easier, and an unethical doctor may indiscreetly criticize the original doctor’s care. This is one situation where we doctors can be our own worst enemy.

An entirely separate but other important cause of bad outcomes is a patient not following the doctor’s advice. We can recall several instances where the diagnosis and treatment were correct but the outcome was not as expected for lack of patient compliance with the prescribed program—another example where appropriate follow up is critical.

Lastly it is important to measure harm done. Clearly there are instances where doctor error has resulted in serious damage to a patient. Washington state has a Health Professional Quality Assurance branch of the Department of Health to which these concerns can be directed. More commonly there is little serious harm done and the issue is more one of poor communication between patient and doctor, patient anger over events, or something far less lethal.

If you hear another person complaining about a doctor’s care, encourage them to return to that doctor to discuss their concerns. Proper follow up on these matters is essential. We at Orcas Family Physicians encourage our patients to return to us with all complaints they have regarding their care. Our phone number is 376-7778.


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1286 Mt. Baker Road, Suite B102 • POB 1055 • Eastsound, WA 98245 • 360-376-7778