Have you ever been concerned that your doctor makes a quick assumption about what you have without really thinking it through? Or, concerned that he/she has been telling you the same diagnosis over and over but your symptoms persist despite treatments? Well, as advised in Dr. Groopman’s book “How Doctor’s Think,” here is one question you can ask to help prevent your doctor from missing something- “Doctor, what else could this be?”
Our goal as physicians is to arrive at the correct diagnosis, give the appropriate treatment and make the patient better. But, sometimes a misdiagnosis can set you on the wrong path and delay the correct treatment. No single remedy can prevent all mis-diagnoses. But, asking that one simple question, “what else could this be?” can help your physician broaden the number of possibilities to consider with a simple reminder of “the reality of uncertainty in medicine.” It could help your doctor take a step back and think of a cause of your symptom that he might not have previously considered and make the correct diagnosis.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.