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Problems presented by healthcare heuristics

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Previous posts on this blog detailed the many problems presented by a medical misdiagnosis. There is good reason for patients in Kennewick to have this concern; incorrect diagnoses remain one of the biggest issues facing the healthcare industry. It is not simply minor medical issues that doctors typically misdiagnose; indeed, according to information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons, clinicians may misdiagnose up to 20% of all serious medical conditions. 

This may prompt many to question how is it that these professionals (with years of collective education and experience supporting) be so wrong with their diagnoses so often? One reason may lie in the simple practice of relying to heavily on heuristics. 

Applying heuristics in a clinical setting

Heuristics are those established guidelines that serve as the best practices within any industry. One might wonder how could it be that relying on industry standards would lead to problem (most might actually argue that deviating from them would be a greater concern). While there is validity to both points, an over-reliance on heuristics is often cited as the reason why a doctor overlooked a patient’s clinical indictors. 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality identifies the following common scenarios where this may be true: 

  • A doctor trusting too heavily in expert opinion 
  • A doctor allowing external factors (such as current events or a patient’s demographics) to influence their decisions 
  • A doctor failing to deviate from their initial clinical impressions 
  • A doctor framing a patient’s diagnosis based primarily on other recent clinical cases 

Ignoring the patient

Essentially each of the aforementioned issues amounts to the same problem: potentially ignoring what a patient is saying or what their diagnostic tests indicate. When such action results in a misdiagnosis, the doctor who assigned it may reasonably become the subject of legal scrutiny.