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Defining the dangers of relying on heuristics in healthcare

You go to a doctor in Manhattan typically expecting the following: a brief review of your medical record, some questions about why you felt the need for the visit, a physical assessment, and some diagnostic tests to determine what may be wrong with you. The end goal of this process to come up with a reliable diagnosis. However, as we here at Rosenbaum and Rosenbaum, P.C. can attest to, doctors may allow their opinions to be swayed by factors other than the clinical indicators they see from you.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality notes the fact that heuristics are often used by clinicians during the diagnostic process. Heuristics are defined as shortcuts, protocols, or general "rules of thumb." in healthcare, they are viewed as accepted standards that many providers adhere to based off of either education, experience, or expert opinion. While you certainly might not blame a doctor for relying on such factors, adherence to heuristics can present problems if your doctor does not give credence to anything contradicting them.

  •          The main types of heuristics that lead to problems in healthcare include:
  •          Diagnosing patients based off of experience with past cases
  •          Relying on an initial diagnostic impression even if subsequent testing proves to be contrary
  •          Basing diagnoses off collateral information
  •          Placing too much faith in test results and expert opinion

It may be difficult to determine whether or not your diagnosis was incorrect during an initial visit. A subsequent failure to improve (or a worsening of your condition), however, may indicate that such an error occurred. A review of your medical record may reveal language that suggests your doctor relied too heavily on heuristics when diagnosing you.

You can discover more regarding the issues that lead to medical errors here on our site.

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