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What factors contribute to diagnostic errors by doctors?

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

For someone facing concerning medical symptoms, an accurate diagnosis is crucial. Healthcare professionals can’t reasonably resolve someone’s symptoms without first knowing what caused them.

After all, a common cold and lung cancer may present some of the same symptoms, at least initially.

Doctors generally use their training combined with information provided by patients and testing to determine what actually caused someone’s symptoms. They can then recommend the most effective course of treatment possible given the circumstances.

Unfortunately, diagnostic errors are among the most common medical mistakes made every year. Physicians fail to diagnose people or diagnose them with the wrong malady millions of times each year. The following factors contribute to this high rate of diagnostic mistakes.

Overworked physicians

One of the main factors contributing to the rate of diagnostic errors in the modern medical system is how many patients physicians have to see. Both a physician’s workload on any given date and the number of patients in their care can impact their ability to diagnose someone accurately and promptly.

Physicians may only have a few minutes to spend with each of their patients, preventing them from effectively communicating. They may also have so many patients that their only insight into someone’s condition and history comes from reviewing their medical records. Doctors who only have a few minutes to glance over someone’s records could easily make mistakes when diagnosing them.

Internal bias

Research has shown that the beliefs of individual healthcare professionals can have a major impact on the type of treatment they provide to the patients in their care. Someone’s age, sex and race can all influence how much a doctor listens to them and how accurate their diagnosis ultimately is.

Particularly when the doctor is from a different background or of a different sex than the patient, those differences could affect the standard of care. Despite doctors now having access to more accurate and effective diagnostic tools than ever before in medical history, a focus on efficiency and cost-saving sometimes means that patients do not receive proper diagnostic care when they first reach out to medical professionals.

Both delays in diagnosis and misdiagnosis can negatively affect someone’s chance of recovery and may cause secondary harm to a patient. Ultimately, filing a medical malpractice claim is a reasonable response to a diagnostic error that has consequences for someone’s health.