There’s so many ways that mistakes are made in the health care chain. Sometimes, I think our medical information falls prey to a game of “Telephone” where the story gets changed as it gets passed along. Here’s something that happened to me recently:

I received a call from my doctor’s office with the results of bacterial culture from a stubborn sinus infection.

The assistant told me the infection was caused by a “Sinatra” bacteria. Been a while since I hung out with infectious disease doctors—but I didn’t remember a bacteria being named after Frank? I was away from my computer, so I asked her to spell it. She carefully said “S-E-N-A-T-R-A” reading off her notes. I wrote it down to check later and waited to pick up the Rx that was called out.

No such luck. No such bacteria. I called back and asked again. No explanation was provided but this time the bacteria was named “Serratia”. I was at my computer this time and voilà, it was a real bacteria and the antibiotic prescribed matched the infection from the culture.

Luckily, the antibiotic was correct while the information was not via the first call. Yet, it might have been a bad deal to start the wrong med for the wrong infection and have to start over again with the right prescription.

Misdiagnosis accounts for 10-20% of the medical mistakes which constitutes the largest category of errors. It’s up to us—it’s our health at stake—to double check any diagnosis. After all, any link in the health care chain can run our care off the rails. And while, this time the mistake in my case was minor—it was definitely a reminder to stay alert and check out all information affecting my health.

Then again, if there was a “Sinatra” bacteria—maybe I would have started singing instead of feeling sick? We’ll never know.

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