A Look At "How Doctors Think"

How Doctors Think book cover
CBS/Houghton Mifflin Company
Who Is Dr. Groopman?
Dr. Jerome Groopman holds the Dina and Raphael Recanati Chair of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and is Chief of Experimental Medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is the author of a new book, "How Doctors Think."

Dr. Groopman's research has focused on the basic mechanisms of cancer and AIDS. He did seminal work on identifying growth factors which may restore the depressed immune systems of AIDS patients and on treatment for AIDS-related neoplasms, particularly Kaposi's sarcoma and lymphoma.

His book, "How Doctors Think," is a journey into the medical mind, showing how doctors arrive at the correct diagnosis and why sometimes they detour and fail to. The aim in writing the book was to contribute to a better understanding for both laymen and medical professionals of what it takes to succeed and how to avoid misdiagnosis and misguided care.

How Many People Are Misdiagnosed?

Dr. Groopman says 15 to 20 percent of all people are misdiagnosed in the United States. And in half of those cases it causes serious harm and sometimes death.

Why Do Misdiagnoses Happen?

Misdiagnosis most often stems from cognitive errors, meaning that the more consideration is put into the thought process that doctors use the more accurate treatment can become. Dr. Groopman says doctors not only bring their personal bias to the exam room, they carry around plenty of preconceived notions. The most common stereotypes occur in women who are entering middle age and their symptoms are attributed -- snap judgment to stress, anxiety and menopause.

What Should You Ask Your Doctor?

A patient can say, "What else could it be?," especially if your illness is not getting better. Or you could ask, "Could two things be going on at the same time?," Dr. Groopman says. Most of all, never be afraid to tell your doctor what's worrying you most, Dr. Groopman says.

Do You Want To Contact Dr. Groopman?

If you want general advice -- not a specific diagnosis -- from Dr. Groopman, e-mail us your question. We will post some of the answers next week.

Read More About Dr. Groopman's Work:

• Click here to read Dr. Groopman's articles.

•To read an excerpt of "How Doctors Think," click here.

Excerpts from Dr. Groopman's interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric: