Becoming a physician requires considerable schooling, and because doctors are typically highly trained, most people tend to believe what they tell them and follow their instructions accordingly. Like everyone else, though, doctors sometimes make mistakes, and when they make diagnostic errors, the repercussions may prove life-threatening. 

According to AARP, diagnostic errors are entirely too frequent across the United States, with today’s physicians misdiagnosing about 20% of patients’ serious medical conditions. 

Troubling statistics 

In a study involving nearly 300 American patients who sought second opinions after receiving diagnoses from their primary care physicians, only 12% of patients found that they had received accurate diagnoses the first time around. Another 20% received diagnoses that were highly inaccurate, while 66% received diagnoses that were partially inaccurate and in need of updating. Also troubling is the fact that diagnostic errors contribute to about 10% of all patient deaths that occur in hospitals. 

Second opinions 

These figures suggest that it is always a good idea to secure a second medical opinion after a doctor hands down a serious diagnosis. Diagnosing a patient’s medical condition is undoubtedly difficult given that there are about 10,000 diseases out there and only a few hundred identifiable symptoms. Sometimes, simply having another set of eyes on a patient helps determine his or her true ailment. 

While getting a second opinion is important when your physician hands down a serious diagnosis, you may also want to do so anytime your doctor recommends a particularly invasive type of medical treatment. Doing so may help you avoid unnecessary, and potentially costly, medical intervention.