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Avoiding Medical Test Mistakes: Five Tips for Patients

Mistakes involving medical tests can lead to devastating consequences for patients, particularly when they result in misdiagnosis. Unfortunately, these are also not isolated events.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reports that researchers have found that anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of Pap smear test results that were characterized as "normal" should have raised red flags.

For patients, one of the best ways to prevent a medical error is to ask questions and be involved in your care. When it comes to medical tests, below are five tips from the AHRQ to keep in mind:

  • Ask questions and make sure you understand why you need a particular test and how it will help you.
  • For tests that are sent to a lab, ask your doctor which lab he or she uses, and why. You may want to know that the doctor chooses a certain lab because he or she has business ties to it. Or, the health plan may require that the tests go there.
  • Check to see that the lab is accredited by a group such as the College of American Pathologists or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. If you need a mammogram, make sure that the Food and Drug Administration approved the facility.
  • Do not assume that no news is good news. If you do not hear from your doctor, call to get your test results.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. If you and/or your doctor believe the test results may not be right, have the test done again.

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.