So often we trust everything we are told when it comes to our medical care and treatment by our doctors and those who participate in evaluating imaging diagnoses and other methods of scientific evaluation like lab work, etc. Thankfully our ability to verify what we are told has improved tremendously. Most healthcare networks have made available online to every patient medical records, test results, email communication with doctors and basically any information from the hospital, primary physician, and specialists which are involved in the continuity of our care. Today we have the ability to be the captain of our own ship when it comes to the course of treatment for whichever illness, disease, or other malady which ails us.
Being retired from nursing has given me a bit of an advantage in monitoring my own medical care and that of my husband who has several doctors for his different conditions. But it is just as easy for a layman patient to verify and question any discrepancy which is found in the reading of imaging like x-ray, scanning and other sources of diagnostic tests.
The example I’m using in this post is not to be a condemnation of the failure of any technician or doctor. It is hopefully to help the reader to learn how to monitor their own course of treatment and be proactive in their own care so as not to blindly depend on those in the field of medicine to be perfect because they are human and make mistakes. Therefore we need to think of ourselves as the most responsible party in getting the proper care.
In a previous post I wrote this week, I relayed my elation I felt from a follow up visit with my lung doctor immediately after a lung CT and lung function test on Monday. I was so relieved to have been told that the five lung nodules I have had not changed since the previous studies of November and December of last year. In fact I was jubilant. That is until I read the CT results which arrived in the inbox of My Chart online.
As I read the results, the radiologist started out stating that no new nodules had been noted. Then he listed each one, their location in my lungs and their size. Being familiar with the ones I have, I was shocked when I came to the last one. It was number 6, not number 5. I had to ask myself “Where did this come from?” The radiologist had clearly stated no new nodules were found. So I was able to refer to the earlier CT reports from November and December and they clearly did not indicate this 6th 5mm nodule.
There are also other structures examined in a chest CT such as the heart and the other organs which lie in the immediate vicinity below the chest cavity. I was not surprised that a large retrocardial (behind the heart) hiatal hernia (bulging protrusion of the diaphragm due to a stomach abnormality) was found because I have suspected it with increasing gastric reflux and frequent heartburn over the past several months. Since it was large, I wondered why this was not found or reported on the November CT or the December PET/CT evaluations.
I was a concerned at having to find out all this new information that my doctor didn’t seem to find upon her review of the CT scans and neither did the radiologist who claimed there were no changes since last exam.
Next I composed an email to my lung doctor requesting she re-review my findings and clarify with the radiologists what was accurate and when, so we could both know if the reported new nodule was there on the review of the films in November and simply not included in the report of the test result. She called me in just a few hours after she received my email. The fault was with the first radiologist who did not note the 6th nodule.
After several hours of consideration, I decided to request a change in lung doctors. The one I was referred to was a young foreign doctor who has only been in practice for 3 years. I had previously felt she was insecure in the management and plan of care for monitoring my condition. Instead I decided to ask my primary for a referral to a more seasoned physician who saved my husband’s life when he was hospitalized for acute respiratory failure. I also requested she refer me to a gastroenterologist (which I knew) to perform the hernia repair.
Particularly in these days of Obamacare regulations and insurance involvement in coverage for procedures, our physicians and other healthcare professionals are restricted in their use of diagnostics and procedures. They are overwhelmed with governmental guidelines and reports. All this red tape causes more stress and more chances for inaccuracies in health management.
This is only my opinion and I have not offered any detailed research to back up my opinion, but perhaps in the future I’ll write another post once I’ve tested my theory. In the meantime it matters not the reasons mistakes are more frequent. Each and every one of us need to take the reigns and command our own medical course. Even if you think it might upset a doctor or other healthcare professional to question their findings, you owe it to yourself to know the truth about what is going on with your body. SO ASK QUESTIONS! REVIEW TEST RESULTS AND ALL OF YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS! BE AN INFORMED PATIENT!
© Phyllis Weeks Rogers 3/07/2018
Below is a film from “Patient Power” on YouTube which is related to this post: