That Time I Got A Nightmare Misdiagnosis

photo credit: Doctor Office 3 (license)

Healthcare Horror Stories are a weekly post of horrible healthcare experiences. They are posted anonymously. Submit your story; if you’re selected, you get a free Prime t-shirt. The best comment gets the same prize! This is the debut post of the series and, as you’ll see, even we couldn’t believe what we were reading. Originally posted on the Prime Blog.

So, imagine the most comical ridiculous thing a bad doctor could do after your first visit. Now imagine something 1000x worse… that’s what happened to me.

The doctor literally told me I tested positive for HIV.

I went in to get a standard round of STI tests. I was changing partners, and it had been a while.

“I know that’s a lot. Are you breathing? Are you okay?” he asked

“What are the chances of a false positive?” I asked. I was dumbfounded.

“Well, I’ll say this: the tests are good. We’ll get another round of tests to be sure, but in the meantime I want to start talking about treatment as well,” he said.

He was wrong. I didn’t have HIV. Many HIV screens are known to have a high false-positive rate. But this doctor didn’t know that. And neither did I.

As I tried to piece together what was happening, I found studies and diagnostic flowcharts based on different HIV tests. But I didn’t know exactly which test I had been given. The doctor hadn’t told me. He hadn’t posted the results on his practice’s web portal because “it could be an insurance liability.” I called the lab and they wouldn’t tell me anything about the tests I had taken–I had to go through my doctor.

The philosophy behind that, as I understand, is that patients should have their results explained by a physician who can contextualize them. But of course in this case the physician totally messed that part up. I would have done better reading the results and researching what they meant myself.

Ultimately it’d be cool if I could “self-serve” stuff like labwork. Maybe I can’t order the tests myself, but I can at least get the raw result data as it comes in.

It’s cool now. But those were a stressful couple days, to say the least.