How to Avoid a Misdiagnosis: What You Should Know

How to Avoid a Misdiagnosis | Dr. Ali Ghahary
Always be open and honest when discussing your health with your physician. | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Misdiagnosing, unfortunately, is something that can occur in healthcare, and it can have devastating (and sometimes even fatal) consequences. Below are some critical steps you can take to get the right diagnosis and improve your overall health.


it comes to your health, it’s always important that you report any and all abnormalities you might be experiencing to your physician, regardless of their severity and what you think they are or aren’t caused from – be it medication or an underlying health condition. By letting your doctor know exactly how you feel, he or she will be able to provide you – the patient – with an accurate diagnosis, as well as an appropriate treatment plan moving forward.


It’s not uncommon for a patient to go to their physician knowing what they want to ask, only to realize they’ve forgotten to ask or tell them something once they’ve gotten back home. Prior to your appointment with your physician, it’s a good idea to sit down and make a list of not just your symptoms, but any questions you might have for your doctor. Writing down as much information as you can will make it so no question is left unanswered. Alternatively, it’s also a smart idea to take a pen and paper with you to your doctor’s appointment, that way you can also write down information that your physician relays to you. However, as most medical offices now use electronic medical records, you could also ask for a copy of the notes from your visit.


Writing your symptoms down on a piece of paper and taking it with you to your doctor’s appointment is important, but you also need to be specific when describing them. For example, don’t just write down “irritated skin” as that could mean many different things. Does it burn? Itch? Is there a rash? Similarly, if you have an earache, don’t just write down, “I have an ear ache.” Describe it. Does it hurt? Is there a sensation of pressure in your ear or ears? Write down anything and everything you’re experiencing as your physician will then be able to consider (and potentially rule out) certain possibilities as the cause of your symptoms.


As a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary says there’s no such thing as a bad question, and therefore patients should not feel afraid or ashamed to ask about anything relating to their health. If your doctor is able to provide you with a definitive diagnosis upon your visit, ask about what you can experience or any red flags you should look out for. If your doctor refers you for testing (such as medical imaging or blood tests), ask what the tests are for, how they’re administered, and if there’s any preparation you need to do before the tests are done – for example, certain blood tests require the patient to fast so that the results are accurate.