Know the Accuracy of Your Medical Test Results
October 26, 2018
October 26, 2018
Know the Accuracy of Your Medical Test Results
Every once in a while, almost all of us undergo a medical test and we rely on its accuracy. The medical test results are the source to figure out what happens next. Our healthcare providers may prescribe a new treatment or we are diagnosing with something new. They may change our treatment plan or declare us a cure for our current medical problem. According to the results, we are often suggested of just doing what we have been expected to.
Fig: Know the Accuracy of Your Medical Test Results
What most of us don’t know is that all medical test results are not accurate or correct. Inaccuracy or fallacy of test results may cause a missed diagnosis, misdiagnosis or even failure in diagnosis. As a result, we don’t get proper treatment or even get the wrong treatment due to which we are forced to suffer from something we didn’t actually have.
Why we get the wrong medical test results?
There are different reasons behind getting inaccurate or wrong test results. It is basically due to mistakes in handling specimens and messing up the documents. There are also problems in how the medical test is conducted or whether the equipment was calibrated properly. The tests may also have issues with accuracy on themselves.
There is nothing much to do to avoid these reasons especially because of circumstances which are out of our control. The only way out is to undergo the same test again to prevent the outcomes of those pitfalls in case the original findings are wrong.
When we discuss the problem in accuracy, it is because of the quality of a medical test and the results of the same. The medical test which is reviewing and running properly, deliver the right outcomes. Most of them are 100% accurate, but those tests also have a risk of failure, even though it is too small.
Accuracy in Medical Test
There are medical tests that are not accurate and dependable enough for their outcomes. Also, you get some evidence to know whether you should rely on their results or run additional tests. It doesn’t mean that medical test is wrong. It may mean that the test is just not accurate enough for some of the purposes. When medical tests are conducted for years, doctors are fully aware of their rates of accuracy who conduct them. But it may not the case for recent tests.
For patients awareness, the key is to ask about the accuracy of tests before and after getting results. Today, both patients and doctors have to know and better understand whether they can rely on the results. The reliability of results will help find out what to do next. Here are some of thing things to consider for both doctors and scientists to determine the accuracy of medical test –
- In some tests, there are high rates of false positives, especially when the test indicates that an individual has a condition or disease, and they don’t actually have it.
- For whatever the blood type test was conducted, the test returns positive.
- It should be considered incorrect. Suppose a woman undergoes a CA-125 test to figure out if she has ovarian cancer.
- If there is high false positive in the result, it means she is told that she has ovarian cancer, when she actually didn’t have.
- This full blood test shouldn’t be used to determine ovarian cancer.
- It can be used with other types of tests but it shouldn’t be only used to figure out the diagnosis.
- There are some tests which come with a high amount of false negatives.
- It shows that a patient doesn’t have the condition he or she has been tested for.
- Actually, they have it. This way, mammograms have high false positives and false negatives.
- False negatives often come from inaccuracy of scans and other errors like the sensitivity of equipment.
- There are other considerations to determine false negatives and false positives.
- They are based on specificity and sensitivity.
- But the bottom line is – you need to consider the risk of mistakes before relying on medical test results and then decide the steps to be taken next.
What you should ask regarding Medical Test Results?
When you get the test results which influence your decisions regarding what to do next – or which doctor you should choose to change their recommendations – here’s what you need to ask to figure out the reliability and accuracy of results –
- How often do you get false negatives from this test?
- Do you get false positives from this test?
- Is the doctor or you are confident about the accuracy of the test results?
If there is an indication from the doctor about the inaccuracy of the results, ask these questions –
- Are you sure that the results you are recommending for me are accurate before starting the treatment?
- Is there any other test we need to do to find out if it confirms or ensures that these results are true?
It is your own research and doctor’s answers that will help you make the next decision about your health.
There is nothing more annoying or disappointing for you or your doctor than getting no name or label for what your symptoms mean. Not getting any label or name for those symptoms means the patient is not diagnosed. Doctors use the term ‘failure to diagnose’ to specify that a patient has some unidentified or undiagnosed symptoms.
We also know this as one of the forms of missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. There is the case of legal ramifications in case where failure in diagnosis caused harm to a patient. When it comes to curing a diagnosed injury or illness, when a failure occurs, it is just known as ‘delayed diagnosis’.
Reasons behind Failure of Diagnosis
Fig: Reasons behind Failure of Diagnosis
There are some symptoms that are hard to determine. For example, if you often have a headache, it may just another headache or a symptom of a major health condition.
The cause of your symptoms in the body may not clear and you are just assuming that you are seeing the wrong doctor, which leads to the delay in diagnosis.
You may have several medical issues, which may cause conflicts in determining symptoms.
There are confusions between the supplements and drugs patient takes, which causes symptoms.
There are certain diagnoses that don’t have specific tests. In those cases, doctors may use vague symptoms or several symptoms which causes a lack of diagnosis.
There are thousands of conditions which are so uncommon and rare that only a few physicians know about them.
The actual medical condition may not be so appropriate or unusual to the patient’s age. The doctor may not conduct diagnosis which is too rare for that age or too rare for a patient. For instance, lung cancer is highly rare for a younger patient.
The patient may not rely completely on the symptoms. For example, a patient says he doesn’t drink alcohol but still have pain in the liver area. He may not be diagnosed with cirrhosis in the liver immediately.
There are still some symptoms which may not have been named yet in one specific diagnosis. Medical science may not have specified a diagnosis yet.
Despite the common outcome, the lack of a specific diagnosis is very disappointing and annoying at the end, and even scary at the worst. There is nothing worse than spending months or years without getting the diagnosis with any condition. It can cause a lack of treatment. It may cause further frustration for the practitioners.
The Frequency of Misdiagnosis
The frequency on which patients are not diagnosed varies as per the symptoms or final diagnosis. Here are some of the common examples of misdiagnosis –
- Sleep Apnea – Around 5.4 million patients remain undiagnosed with this condition in the US (i.e. around 2% to 4% of missed diagnoses).
- Glaucoma – Around 1 million patients remain undiagnosed in the US (i.e. around 0.37% of missed diagnoses).
- Ovarian cancer – Women remain undiagnosed for several months. It is usually because those symptoms are confusing with that of gastrointestinal issues. So, it is happening most commonly that those diagnoses are missing.
These are just the examples. Misdiagnosis can take place in virtually any condition or disease.
What are the circumstances that may cause by the lack of diagnosis?
- There are chances that your healthcare provider may ignore your illness and just tell you that it’s just your assumption. Unless you know yourself, you will just need to change the doctor and find one who will work for you.
- Your physician may define your illness, which is something you don’t accept for diagnosis. These diagnoses are just ‘trash can’ or considered ‘fake’ by professionals. They are supposed to make up to give a label to the patient.
- You may just keep feeling worse or get sicker. Your symptoms may eventually get pronounced enough for your problem to diagnose.
- You may cure for symptoms due to which you get some relief. However, by relieving symptoms, you may observe that you are just covering the parts of your medical condition.
You should keep in mind that the doctor wants you to have a proper diagnosis as it will be ideal to figure out the best treatment. In addition, you should keep in mind that medical science is highly advanced, but it doesn’t mean it is always perfect or accurate. It is important to know what you don’t have.
There are chances that your doctor is more willing to find out what’s going wrong in your body. If you are remain without a diagnosis for a long time, and gets irritated because your doctor couldn’t confirm a specific problem with you, it doesn’t mean you should completely rely on the internet for self-diagnosis. It is because there are certain risks in doing that.
Consequences of Doing Self-Diagnosis Just by Relying on the Internet
Most of us just rely on the internet for our health-relevant concerns. According to a 2014 study in the Pew Research Center, around 87% of adults in the US had used the web for their health concerns. In 2012, around 72% of them added that they have used the internet for self-diagnosis.
Over the past few years, patients are using the web to find medical information. A doctor taking a couple of minutes to explain a disease, its anticipates course, and Genesis, after a description of cure options. With the propagation of the web, a technology which has led to change medicine more than another invention has literally changed the patient-physician dynamic. Today, anyone can access health information and bring the same knowledge to the doctor’s office.
Medical information on the internet is considering as supplemental from a clinical point of view and is using well to help in decision making. Medical information you get on the web shouldn’t be used for cure or self-diagnosis.
Online Searches by Patients
Patients are usually using the web in two different ways. First off, patients seek details before visiting the clinic to choose whether they have to meet healthcare professional to start with. In addition, patients search the web after the doctor’s appointment for either because of disappointment with the information provided by the doctor or reassurance that the information provided is correct.
Even after gathering health information from the web, most of us don’t use the web to diagnose ourselves and visit our physicians to conduct diagnoses. In addition, a lot of people ask their physicians about drugs and details about an alternative cure for referrals to the specialists.
Especially active users are the ones having chronic illnesses who not just seek more information about their problems using the web but also look for others regarding support. In addition, people who don’t have insurance often check the web to learn about illness and symptoms. In the end, people with rare illnesses often share details and scientific resources with online platforms that would be forced to meet others like the ones in the real world.
There are three ways for Physicians to Respond
According to Patient Education & Counseling review, Miriam McMullan recommends healthcare professional to respond in any of three ways after patient sends health information online to a health care provider or physician.
Health-professional wise relationship – A healthcare professional may assume that his medical authority is being usurped or threatened by the detail cited by the patient and will assert ‘expert opinion’ defensively to shut down any discussion. This reaction is widespread among doctors with poor skills in information technology.
Then, the physician will use the rest of a short visit of a patient to direct them towards the physician’s own action. With this approach, the patient may feel disappointed and annoyed and patients can leave the appointment feeling that they are often equipped better than a physician in seeking treatment options and health info online.
Patient-wise relationship – In this approach, the patient and healthcare provider look at and collaborate with online sources together. Even though the patient has more time to do online research, a doctor or other professional may take some time during patient’s visit to surf the web with the patient and direct them to the sources of other information. According to the experts, this is the best approach. But there are several complaints that there is a lack of time during clinical visit of a lower level to search the web with the patient and to discuss treatment options and conditions.
Online prescription – The healthcare professional can recommend some websites to the patient for reference at the end of the interview. With several health relevant websites, it is not possible to treat them all. Instead, healthcare professionals recommend certain websites of recognized institutions like MedlinePlus, CDC, or NHS Choices.
What Do Physicians suggest on Online Information?
Nothing is clearer than general reactions of doctors who hear from patients round-the-clock. This way, Dr. Farrah Ahmed organized six groups with 48 physicians who had been practicing in Toronto. According to them, there are three overarching themes –
- The expectations of reactions of patients
- Physician contextualization and interpretation of details
- Physician burden
Expect Patients’ Reactions
In the focus group, physicians claimed that, some patients who rely on internet health info were distressed or confused by the information. A smaller number of patients used the web to either learn for self-diagnosis or learn more about their pre-specified medical conditions with our without self-care. Patients who use the web for self-treatment and self-diagnosis were considered as challenging.
The physicians who based their opinions on sentiments of patients, the inability of patients to evaluate the health details and the likeliness of patients to accept health info on blind faith have been presented.
Physicians loved it when patients learned more about their specific medical conditions using the web. However, physicians are totally against the fact that patients using internet information to either treat or diagnose themselves or test their knowledge. They didn’t just characterize patients as challenging but also ‘adversarial’, ‘neurotic’ and ‘harder’ and coming from the educational background. They also discussed emotions of frustration and anger when it comes to defending their treatments and diagnosed with those patients.
Here are some of the specific comments from those physicians –
“Those patients just come up with a lot of annoying facts in a lot of cases, which they don’t know how to interpret, which are just misinformation.”
“They just come with some obscure stuff and articles about conditions and some are quite scary.”
“I feel the internet is helpful in one situation. If a patient has a diagnosis, they can just educate themselves.”
Physician contextualization and interpretation of details
There are many doctors in the study who believed that putting information from the web in relation to the patients is their responsibility. In simple word, the physician is responsible to consider the medical history of each patient. For those self-educators who are using the web to learn more, this process is very smooth and also allowing treatment.
However, it is taxing for physicians to teach patients who have a concern and details from the web. In the end, patients who rely on the web to self-treat or self-diagnose the condition often allow physicians and ask them to defend their diagnosis when providing incorrect details from the web.
Remarkably, only few doctors didn’t feel that using online information was their responsibility. In addition, some physicians went so far to avoid patients who asked those details, charge extra for their visit, or refer those patients to the specialized.
There are many physicians that dealing with information about the patient is cumbersome and time-consuming. Hence, they consider it as ‘annoying’, ‘irritating’, ‘frustrating’, headache and even ‘nightmare’. They are feeling that it is hard to deal with the health details about the patient. There is plenty of cynicism among focus group members. Along with the burden of having extra health information, there are many physicians showing concern over quantity and quality of health details on the web.
If you are concerned about the accuracy of health information on the web, Lab Me Analytics is the best solution as it is accurate and works on machine intelligence technology to diagnose the health condition of the patients. It is a lab information solution which is very efficient and accurate to help interpret medical test reports.
It can provide information in a very user-friendly manner and suggests solutions to help improve your condition. All in all, it is very helpful for patients who need the constant online blood test.
Harvard Disruptive Innovation Class of '18, MIT Sloan Business School Artificial Intelligence & Its Implications In Business.