Let me present you with some startling statistics.
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) occurs in about ten percent of the population. This disease occurs at the same rate as Diabetes Mellitus (DM).
On average, a patient sees seven doctors before they are diagnosed with POTS. This means they get an incorrect diagnosis seven times before receiving the correct diagnosis. While many patients with DM go undiagnosed for a long period due to mild or no symptoms, they usually only see a single doctor to get the correct diagnosis.
When doctors are asked about these illnesses, they often don’t know what POTS is while they always know what DM is. The same can be said for other care professionals such as nurses, EMTs, PAs and CNAs.
Why the difference?
When an illness is rare, one can make the argument that the lack of frequency means less teaching time is spent and less experience with the illness is received. But how can we explain the difference when the prevalence of the two diseases is the same?
The primary difference is probably one of time. DM was first documented in 250 BC while POTS was first documented in 1993.
This raises the question of how does our medical system go about educating currently practicing professionals about a newly discovered illness? Sadly, the answer is: not very well. Most medical professionals are not required to continue with education during their practice and those that are required are allowed to self select the educational material.
This seems a bizarre way to go about ensuring that providers remain up to date in a quickly changing field. And it often leaves patients in the weird and scary position of knowing more about their illness then the people responsible for treating it.
There should be a responsibility for maintaining the knowledge base that’s required the safe and appropriate care of all patients. When providers go through college, experts in the field decide what things are important for them to learn in order to be safely practicing. Why does this change once a provider enters practice? There needs to be a better system for holding providers (of all levels) accountable for maintaining their knoweldge base. Without that, these providers are little more than quacks peddling snake oils.