There are many reasons that doctors don’t fully listen to their patients. They may work at a very busy medical practice or an understaffed emergency room where they only have a few minutes to spare for each patient. The patient may talk or look like someone they have worked with before who exaggerated their symptoms in an attempt to receive certain medications.
Doctors frequently ignore or minimize self-reported symptoms from patients. They tend to prioritize medical issues that they can objectively affirm and quantify, as they may assume patients will exaggerate or outright lie to a medical professional to receive certain types of treatment.
The problem with this approach is that it inevitably contributes to the staggering rate of diagnostic failures in the United States. Doctors who don’t take self-reported symptoms seriously may do their patients a real disservice.
Patients often don’t get the care they really need
When a doctor can’t quickly identify a source of someone’s reported pain, they may ignore the patient’s complaint and offer no relief. Chronic pain from an underlying but hard-to-diagnose medical condition can affect someone’s sleep and their mental health. They are at greater risk of a work injury or car crash when they can’t sleep properly for extended periods of time because of pain or other medical symptoms.
There is also the possibility that the underlying condition will continue getting worse. That dull ache in someone’s back combined with a persistent dry cough could be a warning sign of lung cancer, not just of soreness from overwork and seasonal allergies. When doctors don’t listen to a patient’s symptoms and then carefully rule out potential medical causes, they may fail to diagnose the patient or diagnose them with the wrong condition.
Diagnostic errors are a leading form of malpractice
Doctors rushing through appointments or not listening to their patients contribute significantly to the rate of diagnostic failures in the United States. When a doctor jumps to conclusions or refuses to carefully consider and document someone’s reported symptoms, they may have deviated from best practices and may have opened themselves or their employer up to a medical malpractice claim.
Malpractice insurance can compensate those who suffer medical consequences because of a diagnostic failure. Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be one of the only paths to justice for those harmed by a doctor’s diagnostic failure.