Opinion: When doctors don't listen

Patients are going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed despite doctors' increasing reliance on tests, according to two physicians.

Story highlights

  • Patients are getting frustrated at more tests and fewer answers
  • Authors say doctors are trapped in a dysfunctional system that values "cookbook medicine"
  • Using 8 Pillars to Better Diagnosis can help you work with your doctor
Jerry goes through test after test, only to be told he has "chest pain." "Why can't my doctors tell me what's wrong?" he says.
Danielle has a headache. Her doctor orders a CAT scan and spinal tap. "Do I really need these tests?" she asks.
We are two ER physicians who see our patients becoming increasingly frustrated at getting more tests, but fewer answers.
Jerry's doctors are taught to not tell him what he has; Danielle doesn't necessarily need invasive tests, but she does need her doctor to listen to her.
The skyrocketing cost of health care is in the news every day: $2.7 trillion spent on health care, 18 cents of every dollar, with up to a third of medical costs wasted.
Dr. Leana Wen
Dr. Joshua Kosowsky
But the problem goes much deeper than cost. More than 100,000 Americans die from medical error every year, with the majority of error attributed to mistakes in diagnosis.
Every day, patients are going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed despite doctors' increasing reliance on t