Since pediatricians aren't always right, Singhal said, parents who are unsure of a diagnosis should be encouraged to ask for more information or seek a second opinion.
"It's important to me as a pediatrician and as a mom to empower our patients and our families to ask good questions of their physicians," Singhal said. "If they are not comfortable with the diagnosis, it's OK to ask the doctor to elaborate more or help them understand better."
With so many of the misdiagnoses involving viral versus bacterial infection, families should also try not to push for antibiotics if the doctor doesn't feel there's a need, Singhal said.
Dr. Daniel Neuspiel, a liaison on the American Academy of Pediatrics' Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management, said the findings weren't surprising.
"We know that errors of all sorts are rampant in health care," said Neuspiel, director of ambulatory pediatrics at Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, N.C. "The main issue is not lack of knowledge, but that our systems in health care are set up in an antiquated way that allows for flaws to easily occur. The way we work, and I speak for myself as well in my own practice, relies too heavily on memory. Most of the time, I get things right, but not infrequently, I and other well-meaning pediatricians do make errors."
Neuspiel suggested that the medical profession could learn from other industries in which errors can mean life and death, including airlines, automakers and the building industry. "One thing they have done, and I think health care is starting to learn, is the importance of havi
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