Kurzban Kurzban Tetzeli & Pratt | Attorneys At Law

The potentially dangerous role of heuristics in healthcare

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2020 | Medical Malpractice |

You may have a great deal of confidence in your doctor’s ability to correctly diagnose your medical ailments. Yet diagnostic errors remain one of the biggest problems plaguing America’s healthcare industry. 

Many of those who suffered due to a misdiagnosis have come to us here at Kurzban Kurzban Tetzeli and Pratt P.A. wondering how it could have happened. We point out how many may forget that clinicians (for all of their education and experience) are still subject to judgment errors. 

Falling back on “best practices”

There is often a margin of error when it comes to correctly diagnosing a patient. When pinpointing a correct diagnosis seems difficult, doctors may look to heuristics. “Heuristics” refer to those mindsets that help to frame one’s decision-making, and they have a role in healthcare as prevalent as any other industry. 

The point of heuristics is to help clinicians arrive at a reliance on what many may perceive to be “best practices.” Yet the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality points out how the following heuristics can lead to diagnostic errors: 

  • Availability: Basing decisions on recent information and observations 
  • Anchoring: Basing decisions on initial impressions 
  • Framing: Allowing external information to frame decision-making 
  • Blind obedience: Making decisions primarily based on expert opinion 

There may indeed be cases where these heuristics help your doctor arrive at the correct diagnosis. Yet when they override your clinical indicators and lead to a misdiagnosis, you may have a case for negligence. 

Identifying when heuristics may have caused a misdiagnosis

How are you to know if this happened in your case? If your medical records show that your diagnostic tests contradicts your doctor’s opinion, that could be they relied too heavily any one of the aforementioned heuristics. 

You can learn more about identifying cases of medical malpractice by continuing to explore our site. 



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