So you think your doctor has made a mistake? You’re not alone.


A new survey of primary care practices in North Carolina shows that nearly one in six patients believed their physician had made a wrong diagnosis or a treatment error, and about one in seven said they changed doctors as a result.


“Patients perceive mistakes in all types of outpatient clinics ... and they often change their doctors because of these perceptions,” said Dr. Christine E. Kistler, whose findings are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.


But Kistler, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, added that in some cases, it didn’t appear the doctor had done anything wrong. “It’s possible that the doctor has not explained their plans appropriately and that communication might improve what the patient expects to happen,” she said.


Although Kistler didn’t determine if true errors had been made, other cases suggested that they had.

For example, one woman said her doctor had wanted to remove her breast due to a swollen lymph node. “I got [another opinion], and that doctor sent me for a mammogram and biopsy of the lymph nodes. It turned out I had ‘cat scratch fever,’” she told the researchers.

“Continuing to question and gather information is important for patients,” said Kistler, adding that second opinions could be helpful.