According to a Medscape survey, 40% of physicians report consult times of less than 16 minutes. During these brief encounters, patients are often interrupted, sometimes after only a few seconds, leaving them with little time to explain their symptoms, let alone answer questions.
As consult times diminish, and physicians spend increasing amounts of time and energy on paperwork, misdiagnoses are becoming increasingly common. A recent BMJ Quality and Safety report estimated that one fifth – roughly 12 million – Americans experience diagnostic errors.
The likelihood of errors among patients with complex, hard-to-diagnose diseases would be even higher, given the need for a taking a detailed history and for ruling out other disorders, both of which require time and careful attention. As a consequence, patients with complex health problems may find themselves being treated for illnesses they do not have, or spending years searching for an accurate diagnosis.
Three complex illnesses that are often misdiagnosed are Lyme disease, ME/CFS, and fibromyalgia. Patients with these illnesses present with myriad symptoms which physicians consider “nonspecific” (that is, common to many illnesses). The combination of myriad symptoms that overlap with other diseases and short consult times can be disastrous for patients with these illnesses, as well as for those with autoimmune diseases, rare genetic disorders, and emerging disorders not yet taught in medical schools.
Editors Karen Lee Richards and Erica Verrillo would like to know if you have been misdiagnosed. If you have Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, or ME/CFS, or have been misdiagnosed with these illnesses, please take our survey HERE.