New York residents might be surprised to learn that patients who are deemed "difficult" by doctors are at increased risk for a misdiagnosis, according to two new studies published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety. Researchers say the reason is that physicians faced with difficult patients are more likely to be distracted from their clinical work, particularly when dealing with complex medical cases.

In the first study, researchers had 63 family medicine doctors near the end of their training diagnose six patients who were either "difficult" or "neutral." Some of the difficult behaviors exhibited by the patients included being demanding, showing aggression, ignoring the doctor's advice and acting helpless. The patients in the study presented with conditions such as appendicitis, brain inflammation and pneumonia. Researchers found that in complex cases, doctors were 42 percent more likely to get the diagnosis wrong when a patient displayed difficult behaviors. Meanwhile, doctors were 6 percent more likely to misdiagnose difficult patients in simple cases.

The second study had similar findings. Researchers tasked 74 hospital interns with diagnosing eight patients, four "difficult" and four "neutral." Two of the difficult cases involved a patient who charged a doctor with discrimination and one who acted in a threatening manner. The study showed that the risk of misdiagnosis was higher for the difficult patients. According to the authors of the study, doctors likely use more mental energy when dealing with difficult patients, which can distract them from properly performing their diagnostic duties.

A doctor's failure to diagnosis an illness can lead to prolonged suffering and a worsened condition. Patients who have been effected in such a manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see what remedies may be available.

Source: Tech Times, "Difficult Patients At Greater Risk For Misdiagnosis," Katrina Pascual, March 15, 2016


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