Individuals suffering from disabilities rely heavily on the expertise of their preferred healthcare providers. Trusting your doctor to make the right diagnosis is an essential part of working to get better, but whenever humans are involved, mistakes can be made. While few of these mistakes are likely to require little more than getting a second opinion, others can lead to severe injury and even death.
Disabilities can greatly complicate the diagnosis, requiring a bit more in-depth analysis by doctors than they may normally provide. Learning to identify when care breaches the established standards or actually causes injury is essential to safely managing your health when you have a disability.
1. Rushed Care
Doctors prize efficient use of their time. In a setting where seconds can make the difference between life and death, it’s easy for professionals to think their first diagnosis is the best and move on to the next patient. Rushing care can lead to assumptions, including that a disability may or may not be at fault in a diagnosis, instead of careful examination of all factors. This type of rushed care can have serious repercussions for both the patient and, if found negligent, the physician.
Life before and after a diagnosis can be very different, and taking time to educate healthcare providers on existing disabilities becomes a major part of ensuring accurate treatment. While doctors can’t be expected to spend too long with every patient, those who have disabilities must ensure their symptoms aren’t overlooked. Misdiagnosis, or a failure to diagnose, can be exceptionally dangerous. Explain to your doctor how symptoms differ from those you normally experience. Make sure they understand when symptoms with greater intensity or duration arise.
2. Masking Symptoms
Symptoms of disabilities can mask acute problems, leading doctors to think that reported issues are simply natural progression or common complications arising from established concerns. This can result in doctors failing to order needed tests and preferring to wait to see if symptoms lessen or change on their own, even when the tests would be standard established care for patients without the disability.
Failing to take proper precautions when ordering tests for ongoing diagnosis is a serious breach of trust. Work with your doctor to understand why he thinks your disability may or may not be at fault. Few sufferers visit the doctor and report problems unless something has changed. Try to include both painful and seemingly minor changes, such as discoloration or itching, when going over symptoms with a healthcare professional. Leaving out any crucial details can lead to problems in the future.
3. Heightened Sensitivity
A lot of people who live with disabilities also suffer from heightened sensitivity to prescription medications and anesthetics commonly used in modern medical offices. Reduced blood flow is common in persons recovering from traumatic injuries or amputations, and those with disabilities arising from severe kidney or liver problems may be unable to process or respond well to many different types of medicine. Even birth defects or developmental disabilities can leave patients at risk for heightened sensitivity.
While your primary care provider may be well aware of your medical history with many different medications, nurses and other healthcare professionals may not be. Anytime you have to go in for surgery or undergo anesthesia for any medical procedure, ask the surgeon’s office to review your file due to disability and mention any sensitivities that have come to light in the past. While it is standard practice to evaluate patient histories and provide questionnaires that can identify such issues, addressing potential issues proactively can help prevent surgical errors that may be life-changing, even if not life-threatening.
4. Drug Interactions
Newly prescribed drugs can interact with both disabilities and the medicines used to control them. Some drugs may be far less effective when taken in combination with others, and common medicines could boost the effectiveness or side effects of newly introduced drugs to dangerous levels. The myriad of drug interactions makes it hard for many healthcare professionals to safely prescribe medicine without knowledge of what a patient may already be taking.
Because drugs interact with individual body chemistries in a unique manner, make sure the prescribing doctor fully understands the medications you currently take and which families of medicines have caused problems in the past. Special sensitivity or interaction wristbands can help if you think you may be admitted while incapacitated. If you experience any troubling or severe side effects, such as nerve tremors or enhanced limitations when taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics, schedule an emergency visit with your healthcare provider. Most prescriptions will note that you need to stop taking the medicine as soon as such side effects occur and paying close attention to the pharmacist’s instructions on this matter can help head off prescription medicine errors.
5. Altered Tests
Disabilities, especially those related to internal functions, can lead to altered test results. Liver and kidney performance problems can dramatically alter blood panel tests, and patients suffering from specific light sensitivities or ongoing diseases may see great variations in tests including spinal taps and tissue samples. Altered test results may cause an otherwise normal reading to appear greatly skewed if doctors are unaware of potential underlying causes. This can lead to misdiagnosis and, in the worst cases, incorrect treatment.
Modern advances in medical recordkeeping facilitate far easier sharing between healthcare organizations, and the steps taken toward improving patient care through clinical integration can be a real boon for patients, according to Regis College. Take advantage of these to ensure that hospitals seek out and receive information on disabilities that could affect test results. Misinterpretation of test results is unacceptable, especially when hospitals and doctors have timely access to this data.
Coordinating care between providers can make a difference for hospital patients with disabilities as well as individuals with reduced mobility who only occasionally visit the doctor for illness or acute health concerns. If your disability or the medical problems for which you’re going to see a doctor make it hard to concentrate or communicate, bring a companion with you whenever possible. Ideally, take along a family member who is familiar with your medical history. A trusted friend to whom you can explain the problems you’re experiencing before you depart makes a good alternative.