How Do Heuristics Lead To Diagnostic Errors?

How Do Heuristics Lead To Diagnostic Errors?

You see and experience things in your life every day in Upper Marlboro (whether it be at home or at work) that help to shape your opinions. Whether you realize it or not, those opinions help to drive your decision-making. Doctors are much the same. They see countless patients in their particular specialties whose conditions, personalities and behaviors influence how those providers may treat other patients. Their daily treatment methods are also often driven by popular standards and trends in their respective fields. These general "rules of thumb" could really impact how your doctor views and treats you. The question is should they have any influence at all.

Accepted standards are often referred to as heuristics. It may seem perfectly reasonable for your doctor to rely on them when determining your diagnosis and treatment plan. Yet it is when that reliance prompts him or her to disregard clinical results that you really need to worry.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality lists four distinct types of heuristics that have been the most common to be linked to diagnostic errors. They are:

  • Diagnosing new patients primarily based off of experiences had with previous ones
  • Diagnosing according to an initial diagnosis despite subsequent clinical testing that may contradict
  • Allowing collateral information and subtle cues to bias decision-making
  • Placing too much emphasis on expert opinion

Cumulatively, these all contribute to cognitive bias that could potentially cloud your doctor's clinical judgment. If you need proof that this may have happened in your case, simply review your visit notes. If it seems as though too much attention is being paid to one single aspect of your treatment rather than it's comprehensive whole, that is a good indicator that your doctor may be allowing that element alone to dictate your treatment.


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