Sometimes the professionals, the media, the victims and potential victims all miss a huge fact. Huge. Here’s one! It finally got noticed, and reported on, but still hasn’t really registered with anybody. Tens of thousands of people are dying because patients got diagnosed with a disease they didn’t have.

I’ve written about this subject once or twice before because I noticed when reading those “Medical Mystery” stories about hard to diagnose conditions, there is usually a key unaddressed question that is common to mystery stories: the dog that didn’t bark. These mysteries go on and on with untold suffering until one day a 113-year-old doctor happens to wander by and remembers seeing a case like that during The Great War. Bravo! Except why bravo? Why in this age of information are valuable medical facts quarantined in the skull of isolated doctors? WHERE ARE THE DATABASES? Woof woof! I’ll tell you where. Buried under the pride of a lot of big egos invested in the paradigm of Doctor as Hero. Computers? What an insult! This story does mention computers as a diagnostic tool, and just as quickly dismisses them because “their usefulness remains a matter of debate.” Huh? Where else in an information society does computer usefulness “remain a matter of debate”? If they’re not useful, it’s because we’re not trying very hard to use them is the answer to that.

The story goes on the sing the praises of “differential diagnosis,” where leading and secondary potential diagnoses are listed and ranked, based on symptoms and the array of possible known causes for those symptoms. Apparently just creating and studying such a list, instead of proclaiming one single diagnosis leads to better treatment, and big surprise there! And what might, just might a huge computerized, searchable symptom/disease database be able to instantaneously produce? And why is this not being aggressively pursued and developed and talked about? Now THERE’s your real medical mystery.