Pinpointing the cause of a misdiagnosis

For most people in Pennsylvania, a trip to the doctor can be a daunting proposition. What typically offers some degree of solace is that the professional treating them often has several years of clinical experience supported by extensive knowledge of their particular field. This assumption may make the idea of the doctor misdiagnosing seem virtually impossible.

Yet even still, misdiagnoses remain a prevalent problem in the healthcare industry. Many question how is that clinicians (backed up by a wealth of technology) can sometimes be so wrong in their judgments. The answer lies in understanding that doctors remain subject to the same shortfalls as everyone else.

Heuristics in healthcare

Every service sector recognizes certain guiding assumptions which help to encourage standardization. Professionals call these “heuristics.” The healthcare industry has its own set of heuristics to assist clinicians in providing care. What doctors must realize, however, is that heuristics are only meant to assist them, not blindly guide them. It is an overreliance on them that often results in diagnostic errors.

Indeed, according to information shared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the following four types of heuristics may lead to misdiagnoses:

  • Allowing recent cases, experiences or circumstances to establish bias
  • Placing too much emphasis on so-called “expert” opinion
  • Relying too heavily on initial impressions
  • Allowing a patient’s demographics to influence decision-making

A review of one’s medical record

Inpatient care, a review of a person’s signs, symptoms and body systems done in conjunction with diagnostic testing should be the driving force behind establishing a diagnosis. Patients can often see when this is not the case (or when their doctors overlook clinical indicators in favor of their own opinions) through a thorough review of their personal medical records.